The Gray Panthers recently celebrated May Day with a musical account of the history of the struggle for the eight hour day, the people who were at the core of that struggle, the demonstration on May first, the Haymarket massacre a few days later and the repression that followed.
One thing that was so impressive about the organizing for the eight hour day, as portrayed by the Rockin’ Solidarity Labor Heritage Chorus, was the breadth of the community effort. This struggle crossed racial lines. It was supported by native-born and immigrants from many countries. Organizers from primarily male unions honored and respected female workers who were seamstresses and maids. This kind of comradeship across social boundaries has been all too uncommon in many of our struggles, union and otherwise.
A friend . . . told me that I would get more respect for my work if I were paid for it.
One of the gaps in our comradeship has been between paid and unpaid workers. I am remembering a friend who had a responsible position for an internationally respected peace group who told me that I would get more respect for my work if I were paid for it. That was a reflection of her experience at the organization she volunteered her time with.
Now to the point I am leading up to, a look at the current controversy at KPFA. I think the basis for this controversy is a tug of war between paid program staff and unpaid program staff. Some in the KPFA community seem to think that paid staff do a more “professional” job than do volunteers. Some think that the volunteers, particularly those putting on the Morning Mix, have a closer connection with activists in the community.
Part of the controversy is based on the fact that paid staff are union members. I seem to recall that efforts by unpaid programmers to get union representation have been met with resistance from paid staff and their union. I am not quite sure of the reason for this resistance. If this is an accurate memory I will observe parenthetically that unions are not always on the right side of the struggle — recalling the unholy alliance between the AFL-CIO and the promotion of dictatorship in Latin America.
I would like to see an increase of comradeship between paid programmers and volunteers at KPFA. I want the programming of the Morning Mix that lets me know what is happening in our own local communities. That is what community radio is all about. As an activist, I have a much better chance of getting my work before KPFA’s listeners when at least some of the programmers are activists in our local community.
Remembering the words of one of my friends in the struggle: “The trouble with the left is they organize their firing squads in a circle.” Come on folks, let’s all get along together.
Local Bay Area Activist, major organizer of the Living Graveyard.
Oakland Federal Building
1301 Clay Street
Covered with sheets to represent the dead of the war of occupation on Iraq, people lie down on the city sidewalk in front of the Federal Building, This is legal, non-violent witness. People stop, look and think.
Participants lie at least three feet apart and do not block entry to the building.The names of some of the Californians who have died in Iraq and the names of some of the Iraqi dead will be read. A gong is sounded after each name. People will hand out flyers, as we do each week at the Tuesday noon vigil.