Beleaguered KPFK Workers Need Support in Election; Union Member Says, “Vote UCR”

BY ANTHONY FESTvote-661888_1280

NOVEMBER 30, 2015: KPFA subscribers have five more days to vote in the election for KPFA’s governing body, the Local Station Board.
 

Meanwhile, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is hearing multiple grievances from unionized staff members at KPFA’s Southern California sister station KPFK, grievances prompted by the actions of KPFK’s recently-appointed manager. The KPFK workers say management has violated their union contract, cut their hours, and failed to pay thousands of dollars in pension contributions and union dues.

Is there a connection?
Indeed there is, and KPFA voters should take heed:
Leslie Radford, the KPFK general manager responsible for the workers’ grievances and the widespread listener complaints, was appointed by none other than KPFA board member Margy Wilkinson. And Wilkinson is now running for re-election to the KPFA board.

What’s Going On?
KPFA and KPFK are two members of the five-station Pacifica Foundation network. Each of the five stations elects a Local Station Board; then the five local boards each send four members to the Pacifica National Board (PNB), the legal “board of directors” of Pacifica. The network and its stations are supposed to be overseen by a full-time Executive Director, hired by the PNB, but the current PNB seems unable to keep an ED on the job; two have departed after short stints in the post. In the absence of an ED, the Chair of the PNB is acting ED. It was in that role that PNB Chair Margy Wilkinson appointed Radford as manager of KPFK this past June. Incredibly, Wilkinson installed Radford in the KPFK job one day before a newly-hired ED began work. Evidently, Wilkinson didn’t want to leave the hiring of a station manager in the hands of someone with actual radio experience. And Radford’s apparent qualification for the general-manager job was being a member of the KPFK board faction that’s allied with Wilkinson’s “Save KPFA.”

In only four months on the job, Radford has so alienated KPFK workers and listeners that a no-confidence petition on Change.org has garnered 250 signatures. The signatories include listeners, present and former KPFK staff, former KPFA staff members Esther Manilla and John Hamilton, and Uprising host Sonali Kolhatkar, whose program is heard on both stations. The no-confidence statement cites labor-contract violations, fundraising blunders, “disastrous programming decisions,” and other problems. It concludes, “ We believe Radford is a liability to KPFK and will lead the station to bankruptcy and/or numerous lawsuits until KPFK is no more.”
 
Some of the KPFK staff members have also created a Facebook page to publicize their issues; Facebook users can find it here.

Throw the Bum(s) Out?
Under Pacifica’s bylaws, the KPFK LSB could begin the process of firing Radford, although the ultimate authority is the Pacifica National Board. This month’s election could swing the balance of power on the local boards and thus the National Board. Therefore, KPFA voters should consider this advice from long-time KPFK staffer and union member Ali Lexa:

As a current SAG-AFTRA member, I can tell you the union busting at KPFK going on right now is real, and Margy Wilkinson is no friend of our union. If we don’t get the Pacifica National Board into better hands immediately, our station in LA which is the biggest non-commercial radio signal west of the Mississippi River and the most important free speech voice in Southern California, is done. So please vote UCR. It’s the pro-labor vote.

United-for-Community-Radio (UCR) is supporting a well-qualified team of nine candidates for the nine KPFA LSB seats to be filled by KPFA subscriber votes. The UCR team includes a union leader for home care workers (Marilla Argüelles), and a former organizer and shop steward (Don Macleay); they’re part of a diverse group of individuals advocating for peace and social justice.
 

To support both KPFA and KPFK, please vote for the nine UCR candidates! To be sure of meeting the voting deadline of Friday, December 4, KPFA subscribers should vote online using the access codes that came with their paper ballots.

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Bringing Peace to KPFA

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By Akio Tanaka 10-15-15
[KPFA LSB Member 2006-2012]

 

Underlying Problems
Whenever there is a conflict, there is always an escalation in rhetoric, such as the divisive and inflammatory charge a few years ago that the Pacifica National Office engaged in union busting, and the labeling of volunteers who worked on the Morning Mix as scabs. We should avoid getting caught up in rhetoric and address real problems and concerns.

The underlying problem is financial. The trauma of the layoffs in 2010 was the consequence of the station increasing the payroll by 140% between 2000 and 2009. Even with the cuts made in 2010, income has not kept up with the expenses.

AndresSoto

Andrés Soto

One area of friction is programming. It stands to reason that a trade union looking after the financial security of its members will prefer programming which appeals to a more affluent audience. But the mission of Pacifica is to be the commons of the airwaves, to represent a broader and more diverse community, to include marginalized and under-represented voices.   (Lew Hill, the founder of Pacifica, was a conscientious objector. One program exemplifying this diversity – and which saved KPFA money — was the Morning Mix, which included members of the local activist community, like Peter Phillips of Project Censored, Andres Soto of Richmond Progressive Alliance, and the well-produced “Poor News” and “Strike Debt” segments. However, in 2014 it was inexplicably replaced by a show produced in L.A. rather than being supported and improved by KPFA paid staff. (Paid staff member Davey D did support this show.)

An area of friction is the working relationship between paid and unpaid staff. Originally, both were represented by one union. In 1996, it was replaced by a union which only represented the paid staff. This created a class system resulting in an uneasy working relationship between the paid and the unpaid staff.

Possible Solutions

So what to do with these conflicting needs and interests? How does a union look after the financial security of its members in a non-profit organization that relies on donations by listeners and must live within a balanced budget?

The management and the union should work out a staffing level that is sustainable over the economic ups and downs, and avoid the temptation to add more paid staff during the economic boom times as happened in 2001-2006. Achieving a sustainable paid staffing level is a challenge, but it would help address the main source of tension. It could curtail the seemingly endless appeal for funds.

The primary task of the station should be to fulfill the mission of Pacifica.

It is important to note that KPFA has always relied on a large number of volunteers (e.g. Alan Watts), who produce the majority of programming. At KPFA there simply is not enough money to pay all those who contribute to the station. Progressive organizations like KPFA should have one all-inclusive union for everyone who works at the station. While the notion of workers’ rights resonates to all within the progressive community, it must be remembered that it is about respecting and honoring ALL workers.

Instead of taking sides, we as listeners should encourage the paid and unpaid staff to work together and help each other to produce the best in progressive radio. It is time for the staff, paid and unpaid, and for the listeners to embrace the democratic victory that was won in the legal and street battles of 1999-2001. It is time to stop dividing the station.

13 Years of KPFA Finances

 

 

  1. Listener Support:

The audited financials show that steep decline in Listener Support occurred between 2006 and 2009 before cuts were made in 2010. (Adjusted for inflation, since 2010, Listener Support is back to the 2000 level, irrespective of the morning programming line-up.)

  1. Salary and Benefits:

            The audited financials show that between 2002 and 2006, the station added way too many people (the payroll more than doubled), and between 2006 and 2010, the station, understandably, did not address the steep decline in Listener Support. By the fall of 2010, the station was in danger of insolvency, which is the only reason that the Pacifica National Office stepped in, to bring expenses in line with income. (Adjusted for inflation, even with the cuts that were made in 2010, the current Salaries and Benefits are still above the 2000 level.)

  1. Central Services:

            Central Services pay for network administrative services like FCC licenses, audit, insurance, legal, Pacifica archives, and national programming like Democracy Now! (Adjusted for inflation, since 2010, Central Services has been below the 2000 level.)

 

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“Save KPFA” Supports Union Busting at KPFK

broken Transmitter towerSave KPFA’s current Pacifica National Board member Margy Wilkinson was elected to chair the national board.  As part of that position, she stepped in to serve as the Executive Director of the Pacifica Foundation when there was no one serving as the E.D.   This summer, in the weeks immediately before John Proffitt took over the job, Wilkinson appointed Lesley Radford, a long time SaveKPFA ally, to the job of General Manager at KPFK, our sister station in Los Angeles. 

Radford, although faced with a nearly impossible task, massively bumbled her dealings with the KPFK union and set off a staff rebellion.  To date, neither Wilkinson or Save KPFA have severed their support for Radford.  In fact, another central Save KPFA member, Dan Siegel continues to advise Radford.

KPFK Management’s Anti-Union Tactics

  • Management cut all the union staff working over 50% to 50% pay.
  • They gave the staff less than two weeks’ notice before their pay cut took effect.
  • SAG-AFTRA said the pay cut was breaking the contract. KPFK management refused to talk to or negotiate with SAG-AFTRA. The matter went directly to arbitration.
  • Management made no arrangements to cut the staff workloads and to address the critical needs of running a radio station.
  • KPFK management said that the staff would be eligible for the Cal Works program. It was discovered later that when KPFK management made that statement KPFK was not eligible for the Cal Works program. Management claimed the union did not sign off on it. Management had not sent it to the union for their signature when they made that statement. KPFK management has, as of Monday, still not put through the paperwork in order for the staff to receive this benefit from the state.
  • KPFKManagement is using volunteers for some of the union positions.
  • There is still a discrepancy about:

– Seniority pay
-Pension funds owed

   It seems management is contesting these monies; management is anticipating litigation over these monies.

  • KPFK/Pacifica collected the union dues from staff salaries as usual – but for the previous six months did not send those monies to the union. SAG-AFTRA could have kicked our staff out of the union but did not. It is not known if those funds have since been paid to SAG-AFTRA.
  • At least one staff member, with a critical position – the webmaster – was terminated with no reason given. Web donations are somewhere between $150,000-$200,000 a year.
  • The union host, although offering to work 100% for 50% pay, had her show cut and half her days given to volunteers.
  • The subscriptions manager and person who runs ours fund drives, also a shop steward, is or was in the hospital; cause unknown. Management claimed Tues night at the finance meeting it was not work related.
  • The other person now out sick was not a union person. It is not known if she is or was in the hospital but claimed exhaustion for overwork due to filling in to replace the subscriptions manager for the fund drive.
  • Due to these two absences, KPFK’s GM cannot verify any of the fund drive tallies and can only guess at an overall total to date.
  • Save KPFA member, Dan Siegel, is advising KPFK’s GM in these matters against the SAG-AFTRA union staff.

Suggested question to ask Save KPFA folks:

Do you condemn the CURRENT regime’s extensive union – busting tactics at KPFK?

The massive cutbacks and layoffs, all done without any union negotiating was just the start. There are over half a dozen union grievances that have been filed and arbitration on all these complaints is set to happen during the first weeks of November. Add to that the intimidation and hostile tactics to intimidate the staff and you have classic union busting that Walmart would be proud of.  

A KPFK Staffer

 

10-21-15

Source: KPFK Staff

 

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Historical Analysis: KPFA’s Working Majority Gets Screwed by CWA Job Trust

by Isis Feral
isisferal@yahoo.com

I was raised by several generations of labor organizers, and in every labor dispute my side is easily chosen. I don’t cross picket lines, and I always stand with the workers against their bosses. The current conflict inside KPFA is the first time I’ve ever seen my community divided on an issue concerning labor solidarity.

While labor struggles are usually strictly polarized, it is important to keep in mind that KPFA is a nonprofit community radio station, where the traditional class lines are much harder to draw. In theory the community is in charge of the station, or at least it should be.  It’s the community who pays the bills, and who this station claims to serve.

Community radio is supposed to be by and for the community, more like a movement than a business. The majority of KPFA workers are community members, who donate their labor for free. As some tasks require consistent, daily attention, a limited number of workers must be paid for their time, because volunteering the necessary hours would interfere with their ability to make a living. The line between workers and management is blurry, to say the least. To complicate matters, several unionized workers recently held management positions, or effectively behave like managers.
Read More

For some time now a group among the paid workers and their allies on the Local Station Board (LSB) have largely held control over the management of the station. With the capitalist economic crisis crippling our communities, the station’s income has understandably been less. When budget cuts had to be made, they were agreed to by this group, but were never implemented. This happened two years in a row. With each new budget, the cuts were deeper, because the previous cuts were never made. Now the necessary cuts are deeper still, because KPFA funds were massively mismanaged: More money was spent than was coming in, including a million dollars the station had in reserve. The height of incompetence was achieved when a six figure check intended to earn interest sat in their general manager’s desk for a year instead of being deposited, apparently unnoticed even by their treasurer. Recent payroll funds had to be borrowed from another station. The station is broke and we’re at risk of losing it altogether.

On the LSB this managing group was represented by the slate calling itself Concerned Listeners. Right before the last elections this slate renamed itself Save KPFA, in what appeared to be an effort to confuse and solicit the support of voters who remember the original Save KPFA, which had the polar opposite intent of this group: The original organization officially formed in order to defend community control of the radio station in the 1990′s. This new group, on the other hand, has actively attempted to dismantle community oversight, and to defer control to a small percentage of KPFA staff, who call themselves KPFA Worker. The appropriation of another organization’s name, and attempt to benefit from its history, was just one of several unfair campaign practices this group has been involved in over the years. Among other things, they repeatedly used the airwaves to gain support for their slate, without giving the other candidates fair access to do the same.

The new Save KPFA is representing the issue as a labor dispute, and is claiming that the union of the paid workers is getting busted. Let me be clear: There is currently NO union busting going on at KPFA. Because of the deficit, and a refusal to actually implement budgets these people had agreed to, the axe that is falling now is impacting some of their own people, not just the jobs of others that they themselves have threatened to eliminate, or eliminated already. These cuts are being represented as going by a “hit list” against progressive programmers, but actually they are being made by seniority, and follow the guidelines of their own union contract, unlike the cuts they have advocated themselves. It’s terrible to see people losing their jobs, but this is not union busting by any stretch of the imagination.

UEThe real union busting that happened at KPFA was in the 1990′s, when the Pacifica National Board, which was at the time undemocratically appointed, hired professional union busters, the American Consulting Group. They busted the independent, progressive United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), which represented all KPFA workers, both paid and unpaid. Local 9415 of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) swooped in like a vulture, and became an exclusive job trust for the paid staff. Many people now refer to the managing faction of the still unionized workers as the “entrenched staff”, and some call the CWA a “scab union”. From the start the CWA played the divisive role of an elitist private club, rather than that of a union. To this date unpaid workers, who currently make up about 80% of KPFA’s workforce, are barred from membership. Many of them have been donating their labor to KPFA for many years. Without them the station and community radio cannot exist.

Unpaid staff represented by the UE were entitled to such benefits as travel expenses and childcare. The latter is particularly relevant in considering what happened to Nadra Foster in 2008, when she was accused of misappropriating KPFA resources, after printing out a few sheets of math homework to keep her children engaged while she was working. This accusation lead to her getting banned from the station, charged with trespassing, and beaten and injured by the cops, who were called by management without any interference from the entrenched staff. Even in the aftermath their names are conspicuously absent among those of 74 of their fellow workers, who condemned management’s use of police force, and expressed solidarity with Nadra.

The year prior, right before the 2007 LSB elections, the Unpaid Staff Organization (UPSO), which is the closest thing to a union for volunteering workers at KPFA, was decertified (a friendly name for union busting) by station management supported by these Concerned Listeners. This move eliminated the rights of many of the unpaid staff to participate in the elections. In 2005 a leaked email among members of the entrenched staff and their supporters, the suggestion was made that perhaps the LSB should be dismantled altogether. Under their management the Program Council, previously in charge of deciding programming, has also been effectively stripped of its power. Does this sound like community control?

As a child of the labor movement, I am appalled to see people, who are behaving as management at the station, opportunistically exploiting their on-paper union membership to solicit the support of the labor movement and the left, while they are refusing to comply with the very union contract, that was negotiated on the backs of their sacrificed fellow workers. I believe that the fake Save KPFA (on Indybay someone refers to them as “Slave KPFA”) and the KPFA Worker group are misrepresenting this as a labor dispute in an attempt to politically legitimize their turf war. What they are teaching listeners about community building and organizing labor are disastrous lessons to be aired on a supposedly progressive radio station, and represents a grave disservice to the community at large, and the labor movement in particular.

The recent “informational picket” was another example of this group merely posturing as organized labor. Using the word “picket” to describe a protest, which does not have the explicit intent to blockade, teaches people that real picket lines are negotiable, that it’s okay to cross them. Historically picket lines are not merely gatherings where we exercise free speech. They are a very specific form of direct action. Picket lines mean don’t cross! It’s not a matter of semantics. Picket lines are THE militant direct action tradition of the labor movement. Of course, this point is likely lost on KPFA’s current union staff, since their right to strike was bargained away for higher pay by the CWA, as they betrayed their fellow workers of the UE.

The Pacifica management of the 1990′s recognized that the UE represented not just workers, but that the workers in turn represent our communities. Replacing the UE with the CWA created a deep division within KPFA, and paved the way for what we are witnessing today. The current crisis is part of a long history of attempts to undermine community control at the station, and to turn it into just another main stream professional media outlet. But one doesn’t have to be a professional to understand what generations of working class people have taken for granted as basic common decency: Any labor organization that does not represent all workers has no business calling itself a union.

Union corruption has become a stereotype used by conservatives to rally working people against unionizing. What they conveniently leave out is that unions belong to workers, not to paid union bureaucrats who corrupt the union’s integrity, as well as their own, as they negotiate compromises with the boss. When there is such corruption, it’s the responsibility of the rank and file to reclaim the union as the tool for which it was intended. A union’s primary purpose is to unite workers. The CWA must be held accountable, not be rewarded with community solidarity, for its divisive role at KPFA. If the union continues to refuse membership and the right to collective bargaining to the majority of KPFA workers, unpaid workers owe it to themselves and their communities, to organize union representation for themselves elsewhere. I urge the KPFA community at large, including those paid workers who still remember what solidarity really means, to encourage and actively aid such efforts.

——————————————————————————————-

Note: The author is an autonomous activist, who is not affiliated with, nor endorses, any of the LSB election slates, nor any other organization, but writes strictly from her own conscience. The embedded links in this text are not exhaustive evidence to support my views, but merely a small selection of additional information I found personally helpful in illustrating my position. I encourage all to do your own research and fact-checking and reach your own conclusions.

November 17, 2012

 

© 2012 Support KPFA Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha
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