Workers to Protest Pacifica Radio Over Union Busting

Written by Rebecca Rosen Lum. Posted in Labor, News

Tagged: , , , , ,

Published on April 16, 2012 with 26 Comments

File photo by Luke Thomas.

By Rebecca Rosen Lum

Editor’s Note: The demonstration calling on Pacifica to sever its ties with Jackson Lewis takes place from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday April 18 outside KPFA (and adjacent Pacifica  headquarters) at 1929 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Berkeley.

April 16, 2012

KPFA workers and their supporters will take to the streets Wednesday to protest Pacific Radio Network’s hiring of a law firm the AFL-CIO has dubbed “the devil incarnate” and the “the number one union-buster in America.”

Pacifica Foundation hired Jackson Lewis in 2010, but that is the only point of agreement between the five-station, listener-supported broadcasting network and its KPFA workers group.

Pacifica’s executive director argues that the organization simply plucked the law firm from a list of firms approved by its insurance carrier to handle litigation.

“We deplore ‘union busting’ wherever it occurs—and it will not occur at Pacifica on my watch,” writes Arlene Engelhardt in a March 30 guest commentary that appeared on “Jackson Lewis was first hired in 2010 to handle only litigation and is not involved in union relations at Pacifica at all.”

She said Pacifica hired the firm only after previous attorneys bungled employee lawsuits, and that Jackson Lewis saved money by working at reduced rates and pressing for early settlements.

“Terminating Jackson Lewis would be reckless and expensive,” she writes in her missive, adding that station supporters have deliberately misrepresented the actions and the intents of the national board “to whip up a frenzy.”

“I don’t care…what they were hired to do,”  shot back KPFA board member Conn Hallinan. “The idea that we would give our members’ money to fuel an anti-democratic, anti-worker, anti-progressive organization like this is just beyond belief.”

KPFA station chair Margy Wilkinson said the foundation’s retainer contract signed in January with Jackson Lewis includes labor issues.

“It just leaves me breathless that they would hire (Jackson Lewis),” she said.

Jackson Lewis, which employs 400 attorneys in 25 cities, is among the “top five or so best known firms” specializing in union avoidance, said John Logan, Director of Labor and Employment Studies at the San Francisco State University College of Business.

“Given the current labor dispute between Pacifica and its workforce, it is understandable that employees and others are concerned that the company has hired this particular firm,” he said in an email message.

Logan’s 2008 study of U.S. anti-union consultants quotes this bit of advice from Jackson Lewis attorneys: “If you want to keep the union out of your place, you’ve got to work at it day and night … weed ‘em out.” The company spends tens of thousands to several million dollars on anti-union campaigns. Its website lists a “2012 Union-Free Educational Program.”

“The firm has been involved in several campaigns involving allegations of egregious unfair management practices and campaigns in which employers have spent significant amounts of public money on anti-union activities,” the study says.

Engaging a firm with Jackson Lewis’ record could torpedo the station’s already tenuous relationship with its unionized staff and alienate listeners who do not want their donations going to a firm that has positioned itself against organized labor, says a letter from KPFA workers to the Pacifica National Board.

More than 1700 people around the country have signed an online petition demanding that Pacifica immediately sever its relationship with Jackson Lewis.

The current labor troubles at KPFA, Pacifica’s founding station, stretch back more than a year, when station managers fired the staff of the popular KPFA Morning Show, violating seniority provisions of the union contract. Managers claim the move was a cost-saving measure, but afterward, morning listenership plummeted and donations to the station dropped off dramatically.

In fact, troubles with its parent organization have wracked the station for years. In a tense standoff more than a decade ago, Pacifica management hired anti-union consultants, installed armed guards and locked out staffers. The station went dark, with taped music replacing programming.

While its immediate goal is junking the Jackson Lewis contract, in the long term, what the station wants is autonomy, Wilkinson said. Pacifica’s insistence on making decisions hamstrings the station’s ability to meet the needs of its listeners, she said.

“It’s been a problem for a long time,” she said. “The executive director comes in and makes changes in the kinds of things local stations should have control over.

“It seems to me that all five (Pacifica) stations can work together on certain things, like the presidential election, but other than that, we have very different communities, and we each have to respond to the needs of our communities.”

For instance, the foundation rejected a proposed budget that averted layoffs without explanation, Wilkinson said. And it has dragged its feet on selecting a general manager out of a pool of candidates submitted by the local station, which the by-laws require, she said.

Rebecca Rosen Lum

Rebecca Rosen Lum is a veteran journalist who covers faith, culture and social issues. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in beat reporting for her coverage of Richmond, Calif. at the Contra Costa Times. Her series on the financial abuse of elders resulted in changes to California state law, and her reporting on conditions at residential hotels led to criminal charges and the closure of a facility. She is currently at work on a foundation-funded series on the impacts of incarceration on communities and the promises of realignment, a California state program that moves low-level offenders from state prisons to county jails.Her many awards include top honors from the California Teachers Association, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, and the National Association of Consumer Advocates. She also chairs the Pacific Media Workers Guild’s pioneering freelance unit. Under her leadership, the unit obtained dental and vision benefits, and introduced the Fair Freelance Seal, a commitment to decent pay and working conditions carried by a growing number of publications. She is working with independent journalists to launch new freelance units in Oregon, Washington and Colorado. She has taught English and civics to newcomers in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and serves as scholarship chair for the East Bay Press Club.

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  1. We
    urge you to VOTE YES on the recall!
    (this is a partial list, see full list here:
    AILEEN ALFANDARY, co-director, KPFA News
    EMILY ALMA, Chico Peace and Justice Center, Butte Environmental Council, Occupy
    Chico, Chico Palestine Action Group
    DR. NANCY ARVOLD, psychologist, social activist, feminist
    L. AYRES-FREDERICK, Artistic Director, Phoenix Arts Association Theatre
    TINA BACHEMIN, KPFA reporter
    DAVID BACON, labor correspondent, former KPFA Morning Show; TNG/ CWA Local
    BOB BALDOCK, KPFA Public Events Producer
    VIC BEDOIAN, Pacifica Evening News Central Valley reporter, Fresno
    JIM BENNETT, Former Interim General Manager, KPFA, Former Pacifica National
    Board Member, Former Operations Director, KPFA
    LARRY BENSKY, Pacifica National Affairs correspondent (1987-2007)
    LAYNA BERMAN, unpaid weekly programmer
    IAN BOAL, social historian of the commons
    SUMMER BRENNER, author, Richmond Tales, and community activist
    MALCOLM BURNSTEIN, KPFA board member and retired civil rights lawyer
    SCOTT CAMIL, Activist
    CATHY CAMPBELL, president, Berkeley Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1078
    CLAIRE CUMMINGS, former Food and Farming editor, KPFA
    LAWRENCE DAVIDSON, former co-host of KPFA’s Probabilities
    JIM DAVIS, filmmaker, Meeting Room
    JANE DICKSON, artist
    PAMELA DRAKE, Oakland activist, KPFA Local Station Board member
    ELLEN DUBROWIN, listener, former programmer & off-air staff (unpaid)
    STEVE EARLY, labor journalist (CounterPunch), TNG/ CWA Local 39521
    BARBARA EPSTEIN, professor, History of Consciousness, UCSC
    JAN ETRE, Crafts Fair Coordinator
    DANA FRANK, Professor, History, UC Santa Cruz, AFT 1299
    JULIANA FREDMAN, public interest attorney and activist
    JON FROMER, singer/songwriter, NABET/CWA Local 51 shop steward
    GLORIA FRYM, writer
    SASHA FUTRAN, member, KPFA local station board
    DAVID GANS, music programmer, KPFA board member
    SHERRY GENDELMAN, attorney, former chair, KPFA board; former chair, Pacifica
    National Board
    PAUL GEORGE, director, Peninsula Peace and Justice Center
    SUZANNE GORDON, journalist and author, NWU/UAW
    ANDREJ GRUBACIC, anarchist historian, author of Wobblies and Zapatistas
    MIGUEL GUERRERO, KPFA web producer, producer of Rock en Rebelion
    CONN HALLINAN, foreign policy analyst, Foreign Policy In Focus, Institute
    for Policy Study, columnist, LSB member
    MATTHEW HALLINAN, listener rep, KPFA Local Station Board
    JOHN HAMILTON, KPFA News anchor
    WILLIAM HARVEY, Retired Sec/Treas CWA Local 9415, Retired President Alameda
    County Labor Council AFL-CIO
    JANE HEAVEN, KPFA producer/host, field recording engineer
    JANE HIRSHFIELD, poet, author, listener-member
    JOHN IVERSON, health activist
    SHEILA JORDAN, Alameda County Superintendent of Schools
    RAMSEY KANAAN, KPFA unpaid staff, founder AK Press and PM Press, co-founder San
    Francisco Anarchist Bookfair
    CHRIS KAVANAGH, former elected Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Commissioner
    (2002-2008), former Green Party of Alameda County Central/County Council member
    LARRY KELP, KPFA producer and host, Sing Out!
    LISA KERMISH, Vice President, UPTE-CWA Local 9119
    SHELLEY KESSLER, Secretary-Treasurer, San Mateo Labor Council
    ERIC KLEIN, former FSRN tech producer; former KPFA News producer;
    former tech producer, Flashpoints
    HELENE KNOX, poet, editor, KPFA listener & volunteer
    JACK KURZWEIL, listener rep, KPFA board
    JAMES LAFFERTY, host, The Lawyers Guild Show (KPFK); Executive
    Director of the National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles
    JOHN LAVINE, activist, former Berkeley Peace and Justice Commissioner
    YING LEE, Asian-Americans for Peace and Justice
    SASHA LILLEY, KPFA’s Against the Grain; Shop Steward, CWA Local 9415
    LAURA LIVOTI, founder, Justice in Nigeria Now!
    ROBERT LONGER, Exec VP, CWA Local 9421
    TIM LYNCH, KPFA producer and host, unpaid staff
    PHILIP MALDARI, KPFA’s Sunday Show; Shop Steward, CWA Local 9415
    JOANNA MANQUEROS, Music of the World, unpaid staff
    DAVID MARTINEZ, radical filmmaker
    DIANA MARTINEZ, Letters & Politics, unpaid staff
    EMILY MCMILIN, Former KPFA Station Engineer
    PETER OLNEY, listener and ILWU organizing director
    ZEESE  PAPANIKOLAS, listener, Oakland CA
    EDDY PAY, KPFA music programmer
    SCOTT PHAM, Free Speech Radio News, Technical Producer
    SALLY PHILLIPS, KPFA Producer, Host, Engineer
    MAX PRINGLE, KPFA News Reporter
    LAURA PRIVES, former executive producer of the KPFA Morning Show;
    producer,Letters & Politics, KPFA board member, Pacifica National Board
    GLENN REEDER, KPFA News anchor, unpaid staff
    BLANCHE RICHARDSON, owner, Marcus Books
    DERK RICHARDSON, host of KPFA’s The Hear and Now
    FRANCESCA ROSA, member SEIU 1021, delegate, SF Labor Council
    SUSAN SACHEN, Campaign Director, California Labor Federation
    CHARLOTTE SAENZ, community artist and educator
    LYNNE HOLLANDER SAVIO, Mario Savio Memorial Lecture & Young Activist Award
    LEWIS SAWYER, producer, Early Morning Music, former KPFA Receptionist
    DAN  SIEGEL, civil rights and labor attorney, former Pacifica General
    BONNIE SIMMONS, host, KPFA’s Bonnie Simmons Show; former LSB, Pacifica
    National Board member
    SARA STEFFENS, Newspaper Guild/CWA District 9
    SUSAN STONE, Former Director, KPFA’s Drama and Literature Department
    VANESSA TAIT, KPFA News; co-founder, FSRN; author Poor Workers’ Unions;
    TNG/ CWA Local 39521
    MARY TILSON, Host, America’s Back 40 (with Bette Beasley)
    ANDREA TURNER, cultural and community activist, LSB member
    SALLY VENABLE, president, CWA Local 9415
    RICHARD  WALKER, professor, radical geographer & author of The
    Country in the City
    KATHLEEN WEAVER, Author of Peruvian Rebel, listener/member
    KRIS WELCH, KPFA’s Living Room
    JOHN WHITING, KPFA Production Director and Program Producer (1960-1965);
    London Correspondent, Pacifica Radio (1966-1972)
    BARBARA WHIPPERMAN, treasurer, KPFA local station board
    MARGY WILKINSON, chair, KPFA Local Station Board
    CAL WINSLOW, labor historian, co-author of Rebel Rank and File
    RYCHARD WITHERS, Executive Director, Fresno Free College Foundation, General
    Manager, KFCF (Fresno)
    EDDIE YUEN, KPFA’s Against the Grain
    (Please note: all titles & organizations for ID only)

    This is a partial list, FULL LIST IS HERE:

  2. The picket at KPFA was terrific!

    Listen to the Pacifica Evening News report of the action:

    And here’s our report with links to photos:

  3. However you crunch the numbers overall fund drive average/hour is UP. It is spread out more evenly over the day, rather than being so dependent/vulnerable to the morning drive. That is a good thing.

    The membership is about 21,500 according to the latest number I heard.

    Not Tracy.

  4. “Wake up” (or should I say Tracy) apparently hasn’t been listening to local board meetings, where even the interim general manager admitted KPFA’s paying membership has fallen from 22,000 to about 20,000 over the past 1-1.5 years.

    You can look at any fund drive in the last year and they all pretty much look like this:

    That is, massive losses in morning drive time, and under-performing during a part of the evening drive time. Most of the rest of KPFA’s programming — some of it brilliant — has a much lower listenership and doesn’t affect the bottom line much.

  5. Ellen — Facts:

    21% of the donations in February were new donors.

    Overall average donations/hour during pledge drives was up 7.2% for the first year of the Morning Mix – Jan-Dec 2011 – over the last year of the old Morning Show – Nov-2009-Oct 2010. All programs were up, including programs that do NOT support the union shenanigans.

    Go figure.

    One person’s torture is another person’s interesting and stimulating. I thought the old Morning Show was boring and light weight. Tastes differ.

    Your theory of radio may be 15-20 years out of date.

  6. No, it hasn’t “brought in new donors” — station membership is down, way down. And arbitrons, with all their acknowledged problems, show KPFA trailing badly behind its traditional rivals.

    The money that went “to other daily programs” was because listeners were pissed at Pacifica’s destructive behavior and they threw their dollars behinds those programs that stood in resistance — Letters & Politics, Against the Grain, and the News. Those listeners are now getting really tired of the continuing shenanigans. Many will NOT give because of Pacifica’s incredibly stupid mistake in hiring the nation’s top union-busting legal firm.

    You don’t constantly ignore and torture your audience in public broadcasting and still expect them to fund your terrible radio programs. Do you? I guess you do if you have no understanding or experience in how radio works.

    And Ann, please get off your high horse. I am posting under my own name and so are some other people. You don’t have a monopoly on honor.

    • @Ellen, would you mind sharing your last name as well?  

    • Ellen, I don’t believe we’ve ever met, so I don’t know you simply by your first name.  Would you mind including your last as well?

  7. bill m … That is what Lynn Chadwick & the “Healthy Stations Project” said to community radio stations across the country. It’s true only up to a point. Some listeners like hearing the same voice at the same time every day. Others don’t. And there is a saturation point.

    An interesting thing happened after the old Morning Show was cancelled. KPFA did not lose donations. The money raised by the old Morning Show was redistributed to the other daily programs. So the same money came in with two hours less of paid programmers.

    The new Morning Mix program brought in new listeners and new donors. And the overall average pledges/hour for the station actually increased in the year after the change.

    KPFA is raising more money with lowered staff costs, and bringing in new audiences.

    This is the way out of the downward spiral that nearly bankrupted the station — which had lost 28% of its donor income between 2005-2010 BEFORE the Morning Show was cancelled.

  8. Sigh. Once again only three of us here are willing to identify ourselves by name. Eric Brooks, Daniel Borgström, and myself.

    Since the attempt to recall Tracy Rosenberg from the Local Station Board and thus the Pacifica National Board is the next decision that KPFA’s listener-subscribers will have the chance to make, I’d just like to encourage any of you who subscribe and vote, to study the arguments for and against the recall and make up your own mind:

    In favor of the recall:

    In opposition:

    I’m voting NO, and not afraid to say so and sign my own name. I wish that no one else were afraid to sign their name to their thoughts here on FCJ either.

    And yes, Pacifica is “a corporation” as the site says. It’s a non-profit corporation.

  9. “Wake up” has it all wrong. There are very few paid programmers at KPFA. They existing only in a few key programs – but they are a net gain, bringing in the bulk of the station’s funding. They make it possible for shows with fewer listeners to stay on the air. They make KPFA viable as an institution.

    Point in fact: the Morning Show had a staff that included both paid and unpaid programmers and was so excellent it brought in 3 times what it cost to produce. Just read the facts:

    And about corporate underwriting – that’s what you’ll end up with if you lay off all the independent paid journalists! KPFA’s interim manager and Pacifica’s ED have already said they’re interested in that model — underwriting instead of listener sponsorship. They are putting the station in a position where that will be the only viable path to keep the station afloat, since they’ve decimated the best programming KPFA had.

    Now they’ll say they have to go get “grants” so their friends and allies can be funded. That gives them more control over what is on the air, but would deprive KPFA’s listeners of its cutting edge independent journalism.

    That’s not what Lew Hill and other KPFA founders intended.

  10. KPFA listener-subscribers are not capital trying to squeeze surplus value out of workers.

  11. KPFA had too many paid programmers — that only works if you go to corporate underwriting for programming.

    Listener-sponsored radio will only support so many paid staff. When you go beyond that, you go bankrupt and/or are forced to underwriting.

    That’s why staff were laid off. And that’s why KPFA is successfully returning to more unpaid programming.

  12. Scabbing is undercutting the solidarity of a group of workers. So yes, in the broad sense, scabs can be “volunteers” or waged employees.

    But the unpaid-paid division not the main split at KPFA. It’s between those with principles and solidarity, and those who will grab the airtime offered to them without a thought for their coworkers. Both groups contain paid workers and unpaid staffers. The ones with principles are the majority by far in the station.

    That means some who portray themselves as “progressive” and “pro-union” are actually the ones in bed with Pacifica management. Since the information about Jackson Lewis has come to light, it is interesting to see them try to justify the hire. If you wonder who those are, just look at Tracy Rosenberg’s supporters. They are the same people who’ve profited from management’s decimation of programming, from throwing Aimee Allison and Brian Edwards-Tiekert and David Bacon off the air. Many have been on a crusade against CWA for years, making up stories that have no basis in reality.

    Scabs? Yes, I would say so.

    But even though Pacifica management has consciously played off those who desperately want airtime (whether they are ready for it or not) against other workers, it hasn’t worked. The vast majority of both paid and unpaid staff are disgusted at what management is doing, and will not “scab” by cooperating with management.

    Come support them on Wednesday!

    • I believe that the KPFA Local Station Board voted unanimously, at the last Board meeting, to urge Pacifica to stop using Jackson Lewis.  

  13. It’s sad to see the manipulative headline on this “news” story. The story is actually pretty fairly balanced, but the headline needs “union busting” in quotes or “alleged union busting.”

    What “union busting”? I don’t see any. Two people were laid off at KPFA in December 2010 because the station didn’t have the money to pay them. This was done after all staff were offered voluntary termination packages and 7 or 8 staff took them.

    As a result, KPFA is breaking even after several years of deep red ink and the loss of about $1.5 million.

    So, the layoffs were necessary and prevented the loss of a lot more jobs — which would have happened had the layoffs not occurred and the station had gone bankrupt.

    KPFA is now spending less and raising more. The overall average pledge dollars per hour has gone up since the cancellation of the old Morning Show. These are facts. The writer could have ascertained them by contacting the station management and/or Arlene Engelhardt directly. Instead, the story is written from press releases.

    Why is CWA trying to take down KPFA? That’s the question. If you’re a leftist, that’s a question you should ask. Jackson Lewis has not had anything to do with KPFA and is a red herring.

    But CWA has been at war with KPFA since the layoffs. Why? The layoffs saved jobs.

    There is more diversity of opinion and viewpoints in the morning drive time now than there used to be. New listeners and new money are coming into the station. That’s why both the Oakland and San Francisco Greens voted to oppose the recall of Tracy Rosenberg, and so did the Alameda County and statewide Peace and Freedom Party.

    Could it be that CWA doesn’t want more diversity of opinion to the left of “progressive” Democrats to be heard on KPFA in this election year? Does it go even further? Is CWA trying to cripple the Pacifica network — with five stations in five major cities + 180 community station affiliates across the country — in this election year? That’s what the old Pacifica board we fought to get rid of back in 1999-2001 was all about — keeping Pacifica “safely” in the “progressive Democrat” field with no narratives challenging to Bill Clinton from the left.

    If your “progressive” credentials depend on supporting CWA in taking down KPFA & Pacifica, then I would say that’s pretty deluded.

  14. @borgstrom & allies– checked out the blog: amazing. Not in a good way.

  15. If one is a “volunteer,” does that mean taking a union member’s job it isn’t scabbing?

  16. Geez, what a bunch of anti-union jerks on this comment stream. How can people that say they support KPFA and are progressive get behind Jackson Lewis?

    They are completely deluded and vicious, that’s the only explanation. Sad.

  17. I’ll tell you what leaves me “breathless,” to quote Margy Wilkerson. What I used to find “beyond belief,” to quote Conn Hallinan. Warmongering on KPFA, and I hear it all the time.

    For just one example:

    For another:

    Anyone who believes that John Prendergast is a human rights activist, that Rwandan Hutus and Tutsis are on the path toward reconciliation, that the U.S. was a “bystander to genocide” in Rwanda, or more recently, that George Clooney was arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy to stop genocide and mass atrocities, as was recently reported on the KPFA Weekday News, has swallowed a buttload of military propaganda.

    And, anyone pushing these propositions on the air is, consciously or not, working a psychological operation to help the US/NATO swat millions of African people off their resources like so many flies.

  18. Pacifica’s decision to go with the most qualified counsel greatly pleases SaveKPFA. We look forward to exciting action between the CWA and Jackson Lewis. May the better team win.

  19. What Eric said, what Daniel said, what Real KPFA Worker said.

    There is no union busting going on at KPFA.

  20. Some articles from the past 2 or 3 years, background on what’s going on at KPFA/Pacifica:

    The Grover Norquist Solution at KPFA

    What is at stake at KPFA

    The Best & the Brightest, at KPFA

    Why are CWA and the “left” trying to take down KPFA?

    Stealing the name “Save KPFA” from an earlier group

    KPFA’s Working Majority Gets Screwed by CWA Job Trust

  21. Thank you, Fog City Journal, for continuing to cover this story. Listeners across the Bay Area, and the nation, are concerned about the sharp decline of our radio network under Pacifica’s current board and management.

    Take a look at and to learn more, and sign up for regular updates.

    While at either site, take a listen to what some Pacifica’s national board members said about communications from KPFA listeners this week — apparently, our emails and calls are having an effect.

    Let’s keep it up and we hope to see you at Wednesday’s picket!

  22. To once again chime in with a little reality…

    This issue is completely deceptive nonsense being drummed up by a clique of union workers who usurped a previous union at KPFA so that they could disenfranchise non-paid staff at the station (80% of the workers) from labor protections that they were previously granted, and from making decisions about the station and its programming. This clique also managed to get rid of the community program council in order to entrench decision making on programming to only themselves the paid staff (no community or non paid volunteer decision makers).

    This faction, deceptively calling itself ‘Save KPFA’ (stealing the name of a previous group that really -did- save KPFA from a hostile takeover by a truly bad Pacifica board in the 90s) is also trying to eject from the KPFA Local Station Board, long time media justice organizer and Media Alliance leader Tracy Rosenberg in order to gain majority voting power on the LSB so that it can dominate the station.

    To get a sense of the real story about what’s going on at KPFA go to:

    And to see a damning report about how that small clique of workers pointing fingers about law firms previously launched its own cynical lawsuit against Pacifica, hiring none other than Harmeet Dhillon, local Republican powerhouse, Bush/Cheney co-campaign chair, and Sarah Palin supporter, to attack Pacifica in the courts, go to: