Solidarity Saves Jobs at KPFA

On Monday, April 4, KPFA paid and unpaid staff will picket in front of Pacifica as part of the national day of action to defend unions.  The picket will take place from 7:30-8:30 am at 1925 Martin Luther King Jr Way in Berkeley (next door to KPFA). KPFA’s workers are calling on listeners to join them on the picket line Monday morning to send a message to Pacifica’s Engelhardt that they don’t support union-busting.

Pacifica has spent $30,000 to date of KPFA’s money on a corporate management law firm, Folger Levin, which specializes in assisting employers with “union organizing campaigns, contract negotiations, strike planning, grievances and arbitrations, union decertification petitions.” Thanks to Pacifica’s numerous violations of KPFA’s contract — including laying off the Morning Show’s Aimee Allison and Brian Edwards-Tiekert — KPFA’s union has had to file multiple charges with the National Labor Relations Board. Listen to the KPFA News report with station treasurer.

Meanwhile, Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt’s plan to lay off news anchor John Hamilton was averted at the last minute. Five union workers at the station presented a plan to reduce their hours of work time by 22 hours a week and donate them to Hamilton so that he could stay on at no cost to KPFA except for his benefits. In yet another violation of the union contract, Arlene Engelhardt refused to meet with the union to discuss alternatives to Hamilton’s layoff.

On March 30, Hamilton’s final day of work, new interim KPFA general manager Andrew Phillips agreed to the arrangement by Hamilton’s union colleagues. Interim program director Carrie Core, who had been hired by Engelhardt at $10,000 over the amount budgeted for her job, donated back $10,000 to keep Hamilton on. Phillips warned that Hamilton may still lose his job if an arbitrator orders Pacifica to return Morning Show co-host Aimee Allison to KPFA.  Engelhardt laid her off in November.  Arbitration in Allison’s case is scheduled to start at the end of April. KPFA’s union maintains that the station has enough money to hire back Allison and keep Hamilton, and that Pacifica has been squandering money on fighting KPFA’s union.

Pacifica tries to impose gag rule on KPFA journalists – first time since 1999

In 1999, thousands marched in the streets of Berkeley when KPFA’s parent organization Pacifica tried to censor reporting and discussion of developments in the network — including criticism of Pacifica — on the station’s air.  Now, in 2011, during a time of heated labor conflict between KPFA staff and Pacifica management, it appears network officials are again censoring the story by imposed a “gag rule” on some programmers at KPFA Free Speech Radio.

Two weeks ago, KPFA host Mitch Jeserich invited Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt and KPFA interim program director Carrie Core to appear on Letters and Politics today to discuss the mass email they sent this week to thousands of KPFA listeners about the station’s finances and recent layoffs.  They declined.  Jeserich had also invited KPFA union steward Sasha Lilley to come on the program and talk about CWA Local 9415's perspective.  Jeserich informed Core of his plans in person and in writing.  Yesterday, Core and Engelhardt responded via email that, “we have decided not to permit further discussion of KPFA internal disputes (including personnel or financial matters) on your program at this time.”

They stated that the new interim general manager Andrew Phillips, whom Engelhardt selected before KPFA’s staff or board even knew that the previous interim general manager had left, would review the matter when he starts next week.  “In the meanwhile,” they wrote, “you are not to go ahead with your plan to include guests on Friday’s program who will be discussing the internal personnel matters  or to conduct any other discussion of KPFA’s internal disputes on your program until further notice.”

Two weeks ago, Core disciplined KPFA News Co-director, and CWA Contractual first Vice-President, Mark Mericle for the language he used in a news story about the layoff of union member John Hamilton, whose last day is March 30th.  She said that Mericle should not have used the word “layoff” and stated that a disciplinary notice would go into his permanent file.  Core also disciplined union members Hamilton and Jeserich for mentioning internal business on the air. 

CWA says such moves are retaliation against protected union activity and it will fight them. Fourteen KPFA staff have signed a letter to management pointing out the contradictions and calling on all managers to share the pain with the a pay cut to their own salaries.

Please join us bright and early on April 4 — 7:30 am in front of Pacifica at 1925 Martin Luther King Jr Way in Berkeley — to tell management that you censorship and union-busting at KPFA! Send a message to management that their actions are anti-union, violate principles of free speech and accountability, and place in jeopardy KPFA’s important role as an independent source of news and information.