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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Marilla Argüelles

Marilla Argüelles

Marilla Argüelles

Former President of home care workers’ chapter, SEIU, Local 616, editor of “Extracts from Pelican Bay,” former KPFA Labor Collective member.

I, Marilla Argüelles, have developed, provided, and advocated 30 years for services to those facing trauma, deprivation, and stigma. I welcome the idea of serving KPFA because it’s given me my best teachers and allies. Everyday its programming helps me as an artist and teacher to battle bureaucratic obtuseness and lack of funds with creativity and Socratic obstinacy.

•  I am well aware of the frustration, waste and expense that accompany litigious solutions. In 1983 Barbara Lubin and I co-founded Project PLAE, Play and Learning in Adapted Environment, the East Bay’s first physically integrated, children’s recreation program.  It became a model for programs ranging from Palestine to Siberia.  During the three years that Berkeley Unified School District sued our family for insisting on a language-based, local education for our son, every Berkeley Special Education student under 12 was referred to its summer sessions. (Our son became the first wheelchair user to attend Berkeley High School.)

Photo by Kiren Koehl, from Tages Zietung

Photo by Kiren Koehl, from Tages Zietung

• In 1984 I founded Consensus, California’s first nonprofit head injury program to receive Adult Ed funding.  As Community Colleges became more inclusive, our focus morphed into media education projects at underachieving high schools.  These differed radically from other digital storytelling programs because it taught students to look for the root causes of social problems, rather than to focus on personal histories of injustice as isolated instances of cruel fate or bad luck.

Students-created Powerpoint presentations on child slavery (BitterSweets: The Dark Side of the Chocolate Trade), criminal injustice, agribusiness, and With or Against Us: The U.S. Patriot Act). They presented these for community service credits to Union meetings, church groups, adult education classes and public library community forums.

• In 1993 a Flashpoints’ interview led me to the California Prison Focus, where Bato Talamantez graciously allowed me to edit letters from the SHU at Pelican Bay into an unauthorized (underground) anthology lauded by Adrienne Rich, Carlos Muñoz, June Jordan, and the BBC.

Since then I’ve spent equal time and heartache serving on Union Contract Negotiations and Executive Boards. As a current member of ULTCW, United For Long Term Care Workers and former president of SEIU 616’s chapter for In-Home Support Service providers, I’m keenly aware of the need for fiscal vigilance, transparency, and resilience. And for the need of unions to work cooperatively with local grassroots efforts on campaigns such as the Fight For $15, MediCare For All, and CoalFreeOakland. KPFA and other Pacifica stations have long supported teachers’ unions, it’s time to empower PTA parents at the local level by hosting events focused on examining the impact of deregulation and international corporate interests on local budgets and cuts.

I pledge to work to replace corporate obsessions of profit, growth, and technology with local democratic economies geared towards Justice and Survival. I’m endorsed by the UnitedforCommunityRadio slate and by Barbara Lubin, Michael Parenti, and Judith Ehrlich.

 

Official Q. & A.

1.  In what ways are the station moving in a positive direction, that you would want to continue or perhaps improve?
KPFA (particularly Dennis Bernstein) does an excellent job fulfilling Sections (d) of the Mission Statement: “obtain[ing] access to sources of news not commonly brought together in the same medium,” by Guns & Butterexposing the craven manipulation of news by main stream media. I’ve learned far more from Letters and Politics, Project Censored, Guns and Butter, Uprising, HardKnockRadio, and Against The Grain about history, politics, and economics than I did at The University of Chicago despite majoring in history.  They’re certainly better at explaining “the causes of religious, philosophical and racial antagonisms” (growing up in Tennessee, always considered immutable and inevitable).  I’m indebted to KPFA for Joy De Gruy-Leary, Tim Wise, and others analysts of white privilege, and pleased that a more racially, age-diverse audience now attends the speaker series. Pacifica Archives’/KPFA’s Adopt a School Library day is a brilliant collaboration.

 

2.  In what ways are the station moving in a negative direction, that you would want to stop or change? What changes would you work for?

Except for speaker series, KPFA apparently lacks a coordinated plan to involve Berkeley’s 30,000+ college students – most have never heard of KPFA.  Several UC professors have created “Course Threads” and “Big Ideas Courses” that synthesize knowledge from different disciplines to promote nuanced understanding of an important topic.  Could apprentice staff broadcast these regularly?  We need to support Social Action Committees of local Faith Based Congregations.  They’d probably welcome guest speakers with information about the Archives, especially if Archives were cataloged by topic. (Robert Reich recently joined with MoveOn to promote 300+ small house party Teach-Ins featuring 12 different 3-minute videos on ways to Save the Economy. Many filled within days.)
Richmond public housing residents at a crowded discussion called by Richmond Alliance's then Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

Richmond public housing residents at a crowded discussion called by Richmond Alliance’s then Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

We need a daily half hour early morning labor show with Andres Soto and/or Steve Zeltzer covering issues and actions like The Richmond Alliance. Volunteers could staff KPFA information booths at Farmers’ Markets.

 

3.  What key experience, connections, skills or traits would you bring to the Local Station Board to advance the station’s mission?

 

Our son’s stays in ICUs staffed by physicians and technicians dangerously ignorant about nutrition, health alternatives, and environmental dangers force us to tread carefully when challenging privilege and authority.  It’s vital to distinguish between genuinely held beliefs, arbitrary decisions, and assumptions.  Layna Berman taught us to challenge “impossible” odds, health systems, and environmental dangers (saving our son’s life twice without meeting him).
Serving as unpaid founder/director of a nonprofit for brain injured, learning disabled individuals honed my skills for grant writing, collaborating, and creating programs that stress inclusion. Providing homecare for 37 years has taught me how low wage workers must organize.   Steve Zeltzer and the Labor Collective generously coached me in producing shows on pesticides and farm workers, Sami Al-Arian, unorganized labor and unions, so I know something about production and editing.  I listen carefully, have a rather photographic memory, and can be a stickler for detail (mixed blessing/curse).

 

4. What ideas do you have for helping the station and the Pacifica Foundation meet the financial challenges currently being faced?

 

Pacifica’s Mission Statement Section (c) urges us “to establish awards and scholarships for creative writing, and to promote and aid other creative activities that serve the cultural welfare of the community.” My husband is a widely published poet. I’m an artist and writer. We’ve never heard this goal mentioned on air. Many of KPFA’s more affluent members/listeners would support such efforts, particularly if encouraged to fund them at their former schools, clubs, and houses of worship, and acknowledged as co-sponsors. (more fun and influential than your name on a plaque.) Pacifica’s Archives could be the source of reference materials for topics of competitions.
Winners of awards and scholarships could be invited to submit and/or perform productions at workshops (“Mini-Oscar” events), producing further revenue from the general public. If KPFA (especially HardKnockRadio) publicized BUSKERS ON BART (transient performers from youth programs) it could win hearts, minds, and donations.

 

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National Lawyers Guild Letter to KPFA On The Morning Mix

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REMOVAL OF MORNING MIX FROM DRIVE TIME PROGRAMMING

The recent removal of the Morning Mix radio program from the 8:00 AM time slot on KPFA has raised some concern at the San Francisco chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (“Guild”). We write this letter because KPFA and its free speech mission, are important to the Guild and to many activists that either work with, or are represented by, Guild members.

The Guild views KPFA not as simply another movement organization, but as a key part of the information commons. In that sense, KPFA is similar to a public utility — it is for the public benefit. KPFA policies on openness and actions regarding access to its airwaves affect all of us striving for a better world.

Like KPFA and Pacifica, the Guild was created with a particular mission: it was founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association’s exclusionary practices and political orientation, and the Guild was the first integrated bar association. KPFA was launched in 1949, three years after pacifist Lew Hill created Pacifica. The aim of the station has always been to promote cultural diversity, to promote pluralistic cultural expression,  to contribute to a lasting understanding among diverse constituents, to maintain freedom of the press, and to create a forum for various viewpoints.

At KPFA’s core is the concept of pacifism or non-violence. Non-violence is often mistaken for being simply the absence of, or opposite of, violence. Instead nonviolence is a systematic framework of both conceptual principles and pragmatic strategies to reduce harm and promote positive peace at the personal, community, national and global levels. Contrary to popular belief, non-violence requires boldness and courage. Moreover, it is easy to fall astray from the path of non-violence in the pursuit of financial stability or in response to political pressure.

With this framework and history in mind, we raise our concerns about an uncomfortable pattern of events that have transpired at KPFA that appear to be the antithesis of non-violence. We do not list these concerns to cast blame, or to impose our set of values on another organization. We list these concerns because our collective silence could be perceived as approval or consent. We consider individuals and organizations on both sides of this debate as both friends and allies. It is in the spirit of a friend and ally that we speak about the recent decisions at KPFA, and seek to build trust through transparency.

The Morning Mix was unique within the KPFA lineup because it was hosted by a diverse group of community volunteers with programming important to community members. The Morning Mix often reported on local political movements that were under-reported elsewhere. One such issue is tar sand extraction and transportation by rail to refineries. Andres Soto, one of the hosts of the Morning Mix, and a Richmond resident and activist, often reported on this issue. He frequently reported on Chevron’s efforts to refine tar sands in Richmond which will have a direct impact on the people of Richmond and surrounding communities. Across the nation, we see a growing movement on this issue, and the Guild has recently received reports of brutal arrests of people who oppose tar sands. Instead of supporting this excellent reporting done by Andres Soto on this issue, KPFA has essentially silenced him by eliminating the prime time Morning Mix program. It is doubtful that the new paid host from LA will report on local efforts to oppose refining tar sands in the same way.

We could go through other hosts and programs on the Morning Mix, and discuss how each is connected to a local community and movement, however the point is that KPFA’s actions have actually decreased the diversity of speech on its airwaves.

As a community-based radio station dedicated to pluralistic expression, it would seem that KPFA would wish to avoid even the appearance of decreasing diversity, or of favoritism, or of bias. Gentrification of a neighborhood transforms it by displacing local residents, which in turn erases local character. Defenders of gentrification support the transformation, claiming that it increases public safety. Some at KPFA have described the removal of the Morning Mix as a ” move towards professionalism”. However we fear that “professionalism”, like “public safety” is pretext. The unqie character of the Morning Mix came from its local voices, accents, topics and perspectives. KPFA erased this local character with a single paid host out of LA.

Another reason put forth by by KPFA management is that the LA program will allegedly bring in more revenue. Although people can and do argue about interpretation of financial figures, the financial documents produced at the KPFA Local Station Board show that the Morning Mix was pulling is weight during fund drive. Thus, KPFA’s reliance on a specific interpretation of its financial figures, when there are other valid interpretations,  is a factor that creates the appearance of viewpoint bias. For example, the KPFA financial documents do not take into account the expenses incrred by having paid hosts. Thus, the financials purport to measure programs in terms of revenue generated, and disregard specific costs incurred by having paid hosts.

Moreover, and this point cannot be emphasized too much, KPFA can not and must not base all of its programming decisions on finance alone.

Although this letter was prompted by the removal of the Morning Mix, in the course of drafting this letter, we have learned of complaints that KPFA management has silenced specifically black programmers and/or failed to provide support for critical black programming or programming on critical local issues relevant to black communities. We are concerned that the removal of the Morning Mix, a show frequently hosted by black local hosts, is part of this pattern. We understand that KPFA is filling the Morning Mix time slot with a show hosted by a person of color, however the show is not produced locally, and does not have as close a connection to Bay Area black communities, and that features voices of black programmers, and not assume that programming by or for people of color generally will necessarily cover these issues.

KPFA, as part of its mission, must be ever vigilant of protecting diversity of viewpoints. Removal of the Morning Mix has narrowed the range of speech on its airwaves.

KPFA appears to promote radio programs that would prefer to talk about global economics, rather than race and the local displacement of black and immigrant families. It is an agenda that appears it would rather talk about gender discrimination in the boardroom, but not talk about the impact of gender, race and poverty on the young girls caught up in sex trafficking on Bay Area streets. It is an agenda that appears it would rather solve problems abroad, rather than those at home.

The Guild is an organization dedicated to human rights over property rights, and our collective conscious is touched when KPFA – a radio station dedicated to promoting diversity – consciously or unconsciously engages in viewpoint suppression. The allegations may be uncomfortable, however we in the Guild believe that it is through transparency and discussion of diverse viewpoints that this situation can be resolved.

In solidarity,

Sharon Adams, Vice President

National Lawyers Guild, Bay Area Chapter

August 12, 2014

NLG letter re Mix & KPFA

 

 

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Green Party of Alameda County Signs on to SF Green Party Statement to “Report Locally”

 

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The Green Party of Alameda joins the San Francisco Labor Councilthe Gray Panthers,ILWU Local 10East Bay Veterans for Peace,Sonoma County Veterans for PeaceILWU Local 10the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, the San Francisco Green Party and the Golden Gate Letter Carriers in calling for restoration of the KPFA Morning Mix to its 8 am weekday hour.

“Think globally, act locally” is as relevant today as it was in 1915, when Scots biologist, sociologist, and town planner Patrick Geddes wrote Cities in Evolution.  “We need locally produced, locally relevant programming to help us make specific connections between our daily lives and politics and those of the international community and the planet.”

We find it difficult to understand why you replaced The Morning Mix with syndicated programming produced in Los Angeles, because locally produced programming about politics, art, culture, and the environment in a station’s fm signal area is the heart of community radio. We need to understand the realpolitik immediately around us, in the San Francisco Bay Area, not just in Iraq, the Ukraine, Nigeria, Los Angeles, or the distant chambers of Washington D.C. or the United Nations.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the movement towards community-based and/or regional renewable power infrastructure has reached a critical stage. We need to understand every step forward or backwards as this story unfolds on the ground, in our City Council and County Board of Supervisors offices, in public agencies and at public gatherings. San Franciscans need to know what is happening in the City of Richmond, in Marin, Sonoma, and Napa Counties, and in East Bay and South Bay counties where citizens are attempting create renewable energy infrastructure.

Despite a California State mandate to produce at least 20% renewable power by 2010, PG&E is still producing only 19%, four years later, and doing whatever it can to stop Bay Area communities from creating clean energy buyers’ co-ops, or banding together as one and eliminating its dirty energy monopoly. PG&E strategists may have been most successful at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, where they have used the San Francisco Mayor’s office – which they traditionally control – to block the implementation of our renewable power plan Clean EnergySF for two years, even after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimous vote for it.

PG&E has also been able to activate its union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 1245, to oppose CleanPowerSF; this calls for the attention of a local labor reporter like Morning Mix host Steve Seltzer.

Uprising host Sonali Kolhatkar lives within Southern California Edison’s monopoly and cannot possibly cover this as our local hosts can. We need diverse voices of hosts and reporters in touch with those on the ground, not the lone voice of Brian Edwards-Tiekert and/or his pinch hitter, Marie Choi, much as we appreciate the addition of Marie’s voice to the morning hours.

This is not a “narrowly focused, local issue,” as KPFA Interim General Manager Richard Pirodsky suggested the Morning Mix hosts had typically covered. in his parting lecture to the KPFA Local Station Board. We’re thinking globally and acting locally, for the survival of the planet and a sustainable peace rather than never-ending dirty energy wars. The same can be said of efforts to create municipal and regional mass transportation networks,local agriculture, just criminal justice, and other central elements of sustainable culture.

Every municipality in the Bay Area struggles with criminal justice issues including racial profiling, police brutality, police accountability, whether or not to arm police officers with tasers, whether to allow stop’n frisk, whether to allow Police Departments to report juveniles to immigration authorities, and police shootings of minority youth like Oscar Grant, Alan Blueford, Alex Nieto, and Andy Lopez. These police issues are all part of a national discussion, but local decisions determining how they play out here are made at multiple local levels every day. .

What does an LA or New York broadcast host know about the San Francisco Re-entry Council, which created a model for re-integrating ex-offenders that is now studied nationally? What do they know about former San Francisco Sheriff Mike Hennessey, current Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, and Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s groundbreaking work in rehabilitation and re-entry?

How much can they know about Oakland’s infamous police corruption or the Oakland Domain Surveillance Center proposed barely a year after Occupy Oakland grabbed the national and international stage?

How much can they know about the Richmond Progressive Alliance and Contra Costa County’s struggles with the Chevron refinery, crude-by-rail shipments, and expanding oil infrastructure?

Citizens are working to stop potentially explosive crude-by-rail shipments from the Bakken Shale all over the U.S. and Canada, but shouldn’t we be specifically informed about the crude-by-rail shipments threatening our own communities here? If not for KPFA Morning Mix host Andrés Soto and the Richmond Progressive Alliance, many residents of the Bay Area might not even realize that crude-by-rail shipments now threaten their own communities, not just Contra Costa County’s.

This may not be of concern to KPFA’s wealthier subscribers who never have and never will have to live next to an oil refinery, a crude-by-rail transit line, an oil storage tank, or any of the radioactive and otherwise toxic sites that the U.S. Navy abandoned all around San Francisco Bay. They may never have to face any number of other injustices in their daily lives, but if KPFA is to foster real community within the fm signal area it claims to serve, in accordance with its mission, it must consider these injustices to some as injustices to all. It must not exclude them from the station’s early morning hours.

On July 12, 2014, the Green Party of Alameda signed on this statement.

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August 2nd Community Town Hall

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“National Live-Stream Community Town Hall Forum About Pacifica Radio: “Community Radio, Morning Mix, & Pacifica”

Featuring Morning Mix hosts, Community Members, and Programmers from other Pacifica stations via Skype. 

Saturday, August 2 from 1:30 – 4 pm

Fellowship Hall 1924 Cedar Street, Berkeley, CA 94609. (At Bonita Ave, one block east of MLK Way & three blocks west of Shattuck Ave)
This location is wheelchair accessible via the ramp on the Bonita Avenue side of the building.

Sponsored by the Social Justice Committee of the BFUU and the Labor Video Project www.laborvideo.

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Stick Up For Labor Programming in Drive Time: SF Labor Council July 14 6:00pm

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Last month the San Francisco Labor Council passed a  resolution calling for the return of the Morning Mix.

San Francisco Labor Council Resolution To Bring Back The Morning Mix

Now the bureaucracy at CWA Local 9415 is asking them to repeal it, without a vote of the membership of the bargaining unit. 

The Labor Council acted in the interests of working people by supporting labor and multi-voice working people’s programming as a component of AM drive time.

One hour for the people!

Please come, especially if you’re a union member to say: “We staff or listeners of KPFA thank the San Francisco LaborCouncil for its June 9 resolution calling for the return of the Morning Mix. We ask the Council to stand by that resolution, and reject any motion to repeal it.  The Bay Area needs to hear the Morning Mix again.

Plumbers Union Hall 1621 Market Street San Francisco on Monday July 14th at 6:00pm

Text of the resolution: (Passed June 9, 2014 and endorsed by GGLC Local 214 and ILWU Local 10)

Whereas, KPFA Radio 94.1 FM, with a powerful radio transmitter, has been a megaphone for community free speech radio throughout northern California for over 65 years, and is the flagship station of the Pacifica Radio Network; and

Whereas, for the last 3 and a half years KPFA has aired a ground-breaking labor and community program called the Morning Mix – broadcasting at a time when more working people could hear it, during “drive time” from 8 to 9 AM, Monday to Friday; and

Whereas, the rotating hosts of the Morning Mix radio shows on KPFA have featured the voices of Bay Area working people and their issues, to a degree not found on any other Northern California station with the reach and power of KPFA. This included regular reporting on labor and community struggles – about the postal workers’ fight against privatization; the concerns of teachers, dockworkers, transit and healthcare workers, and immigrant workers; as well as the community fight in the city of Richmond against toxic pollution by Chevron Corporation; and

Whereas, the Morning Mix provided regular announcements of Bay Area labor and community events, so working people could be aware of these activities and participate; and

Whereas, late in the evening on May 21, KPFA and Pacifica management abruptly, and without proper consultations, cancelled the Morning Mix and replaced it with a syndicated program “Uprising” produced in Los Angeles that does not cover Bay Area issues and events; and

Whereas, we need more local labor and community programming on KFPA radio, not less – especially since working peoples’ stories are almost completely ignored by the mainstream media. This program change is a tremendous loss for the radio listeners in the Bay Area.

Therefore be it resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council calls on KPFA/Pacifica management to reinstate the Morning Mix drive-time radio show. We need more labor and community programs on the radio – not less!

And be it further resolved, that this resolution be submitted to other Bay Area labor councils for concurrence and action.

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