Why did KPFA CWA Local 9415 Members Picket the Pacifica Foundation?

Written by Steve Zeltzer. Posted in Labor, Media, Opinion

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Published on April 28, 2012 with 17 Comments

By Steve Zeltzer, guest editorial

Author’s Note: Steve Zeltzer, longtime labor organizer and reporter, made this video of the April 18, 2012 CWA picket outside KPFA.  Steve is an unpaid programmer at KPFA, a weekly labor reporter for the station’s Friday morning Project Censored/Morning Mix hour, a sometime Flashpoints host, host of an upcoming weekly 6 AM hour, Workweek Radio, and a member of the CWA Pacific Media Workers’ Guild Freelancers’ Unit. Steve asked KPFA workers, Local Station Board members, and management who chose to join the picket line, and those who did not, to express their views, but did not join or support it himself, although he does agree that Pacifica should end its relationship with Jackson Lewis. At the April KPFA Local Station Board meeting, the Board voted unanimously for a resolution urging the Pacifica Foundation to stop using the services of Jackson Lewis, but that was not reported in the KPFA Evening News report on April 21st.

April 28, 2012

On Wednesday, April 18, a picket was called by CWA local 9415 which represents the paid staff at KPFA to protest the hiring by Pacifica of a law firm called Jackson Lewis. I have some personal experience fighting this firm since I was supporting an injured biotech worker, Becky McClain, who was working at Pfizer and was fired after making health and safety complaints about the contamination at the Pfizer Groton laboratory where 6,000 scientists worked. When the federal trial took place, she faced lawyers from the Jackson Lewis firm who tried to defeat her complaint as a whistleblower protecting her health and safety and the public’s health and safety. She won the case despite great odds and defeated Pfizer and their hired guns from Jackson Lewis.

So I obviously want to expose Jackson Lewis’s anti-labor aggression, and I support the KPFA Local Station Board’s unanimous vote to ask Pacifica to end its relationship with the firm. But, there are also other issues involved.

Management says that the insurance company that covers Pacifica offered the firm on a list, and that Pacifica contracted with it only to handle non-labor legal work, not with the bargaining units. CWA agrees that Jackson Lewis has not been used in any union arbitrations at KPFA.

It is also important to point out that the firm was hired in 2009 and some members of the Pacifica National Board, who are also among those who supported the April 21st picket line, did not object at the time.

One very important fact that was also not covered on the KPFA Evening News on the day of the rally was that the Organizing Director of CWA District Council 9 Libby Sayre publicly called for a financial boycott of KPFA and Pacifica. In her speech at the rally, she said, “This is one listener who’s done being generous. I will not, I cannot fund union busting at my local community radio station and I hope all of you will seriously consider doing the same.”

This public call by a leader of the CWA for the financial boycott of KPFA and Pacifica is very serious. KPFA, a listener supported station, is already facing an extremely difficult time for listeners, many of whom have trouble paying for rent, gas, health care, and the rest of their bills.

As an unpaid programmer, a member of the Unpaid Staff Organization, and a supporter of KPFA and Pacifica, the only real national voice for working people on the radio, I question whether calling for a financial boycott is a wise tactic on CWA’s part.

There is another critical issue that needs to be addressed and that is whether or not Libby Sayre’s public position was actually discussed and voted on by the CWA union members at KPFA. Wouldn’t such a serious issue, which would obviously affect the real financial situation of the station, including the paid staff require a discussion and debate within the union?

From what I understand there was no such discussion and debate and this is just the individual position of the union official representing KPFA CWA workers.

Other statements by this CWA representative also need to be considered. In April of last year, Libby Sayre wrote a letter to ILWU Local 10 condemning a leading ILWU member activist and member for agreeing to be a guest on the Morning Mix show, because it had replaced the second hour of the old KPFA Morning Show.

This ILWU member was discussing why the union shut down Bay Area ports on April 4 in solidarity with Wisconsin workers. In her letter she said this member had disgraced the ILWU and “stuck a knife into the back of workers at KPFA Radio.”

Was this attack on an ILWU leader approved by the CWA KPFA union members or was it just the individual action of Libby Sayre, the CWA District 9 Representative?

At the April 21st KPFA CWA picket, I interviewed Libby Sayre about the continuing union busting against CWA AT&T workers who are working without a contract. Sayre talked about the national union busting drive by AT&T as well as by Verizon to attack CWA members. Verizon workers went on a strike that was building tremendous momentum, but they were sent back to work without a contract and without a vote of the rank and file members. I asked her if CWA planned any actions on May Day for the AT&T workers who are working without a contract. She responded by saying that they did not want to let management know if they would take action on May Day.

Why is CWA picketing KPFA and Pacifica, which has a contract with CWA, but not the national union buster AT&T? There have been no CWA pickets at AT&T. What was the April 21st picket really about?

Steve Zeltzer

Steve Zeltzer

Steve Zeltzer is longtime labor organizer and reporter.

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17 Comments

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  1. We urge you to VOTE YES on the recall!
    (this is a partial list, see full list here:
    http://www.savekpfa.org/endorsements-2/kpfa-recall-endorsers)ACT UP EAST BAY
    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 39521
    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
    BRIAN EDWARDS-TIEKERT, KPFA News
    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
    ROSE KETABCHI, KPFA News
    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 member
    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 Counsel
    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)
    http://www.savekpfa.org/endorsements-2/kpfa-recall-endorsers

  2. I’ve been a listener of KPFA for 41 years and before that to KPFK for 14 and hadn’t been privy to any of the “inside stuff” until just recently.  My entrance into this level has been very discouraging because I have seen very careful, thoughtful work being done by many people who have been and are being labeled “anti-union,” “union breakers,” etc.  Also, I’ve met and have come to know Tracy 
    Rosenberg, the person now subject to a recall election by the same people who are calling her and others those names.  Having met all these people and having heard some of the others who are making all the accusations, I must say I can not see what the name callers are talking about.  All the so-called “union” stuff was shown to be a “red herring” when the NLRB issued its finding after the case was sent to them.  

    I and my husband are voting “No” on the recall of Tracy Rosenberg because we completely trust her and absolutely believe everything she has said in answer to the “recallers.”  I have a real sense that this is NOT about Tracy herself or anything about anyone being “anti-union.”  I think it’s more about who will “rule” the station.  Those who have in the past are now unwilling to share responsibility with the newcomers who want to keep the station more democratic than the “old line” would like. These “recallers” have talked a lot about “professionalism,” and I’m wondering if that’s what they’re really meaning when they talk about “anti-unionism.” 

    Also, I have read the piece in “SupportKPFA” by Carol Spooner who has been on the “inside” for a very long time and knows what she’s talking about.  I encourage everyone to read her piece. 

    Jean Pauline

  3. “…but did not join or support it himself…”
    Can you say, “opportunist?”

  4. As per a discussion with Ann Garrison on Facebook. Libby Sayre did respond to these charges in the following message, posted to the KPFA Unpaid Staff:

    “I want to be clear about my position on Pacifica’s use of Jackson Lewis. Pacifica needs to dump this union-busting law firm immediately. People of conscience like myself will have a difficult time contributing while Pacifica is spending our money on a union- buster like Jackson Lewis.
    “However, neither I nor CWA is calling for a donor boycott of KPFA. I recognize that KPFA needs money in order to survive, and we have to keep this progressive institution viable.
    “Sadly, KPFA has no control over how Pacifica spends the 20% cut it takes from KPFA’s pledge money. In the long term, the solution to this problem is to change who’s in control of Pacifica, and what they spend our money on.”
    In Solidarity, Libby Sayre

    • Thanks to Richard for posting Libby Sayre’s response.

  5. I’m an unpaid staff member at KPFA. This is not about factions.  It’s about a few people — unpaid and paid — getting
    in bed with Pacifica management to grab airtime for themselves and help
    management bust the union. 

    We’ve got managers that unapologetically hire Jackson Lewis with
    listener dollars, and also play the unpaid staff off against paid, by
    wooing them with airtime and other perks.  Scabs like Zeltzer and the
    rest of the Morning Mess crew did NOT get their positions by being good
    broadcasters or even with an open application process. They were
    installed by Arlene Engelhardt and Tracy Rosenberg, after they canned
    their political enemies on the Morning Show. 

    Thanks to the majority of KPFA’s wonderful staff — including real labor
    reporter David Bacon — who are behaving with the highest ethical
    standards and NOT playing management’s game. 

    For the background, see http://www.KPFAWorker.org.

    And yes, John Iverson does know what he’s talking about. Engelhardt
    makes $90K, full time staffers make $40K and there are hardly any full
    time people left.

  6. ohn Iversen5:23pm Apr 23As I was madly packing for Duluth last Friday morning I heard Steve Zeltzer bad mouthing the CWA (check it out on the Mourning Mux) at 8:30 am last Friday. I did not need this to amp my adrenalina up while counting out pills. truly abysmal and selfish–he wants David Bacon’s spot. As an organizer I ask many people for favors and remember being ignored by both Zeltzer and Bacon, so I am quite impartial on this one. But for a labor reporter to attack the union–and if I worked at KPFA I’d damn well want a union with a constANTLY SHIFTING MANAGeMENT and Bd. of Directors. And why do Andrew Phillips and Arlene eglehardt make 2-3X as much as folks who’ve been there for 30 years as staff? From a LONG union family: grandfather on dad’s side in IWW and part of IWW band in Kellogg, Utah–he fled back to Norway to save his skin; grandpa Bang on mom’s side, proud Ironworker all his life. Dad, labor org while working on ore boats, member or RR Carmen most of the time and stint with Steelworkers 5296 when the ore docks were shut down by the 1% for a while, mom–retail clerks union for 30-40 years, brother Paul, Brotherhood of Maintenance and Ways RR Union for over 30 years and on Duluth Central Labour Council. y yo, worked for UFW and ILGWU, member Steelworkers 5296–n won their Voice of Democracy Schloarship, AFSCME in Madison, SEIU 509 n 235 Boston, SEIU 535 SF and Berkeley. First cousin tinky emplyee of Duluth Labor Temple for years. Zeltzer should be ashamed of himself for using airtime to bad mouth or speculate against the CWA. Le’ts have the election and get this bickering over with! Democracy NOW! Vote yes on the recall.

    • As John knows perfectly well (he already admitted he didn’t know what he was talking about when he posted this same comment on a FB page and was corrected), Neither Phillips nor Engelehardt makes 2-3x what a staff member makes with 30 years experience.  It is baffling why people think they can run around the Internet saying patently false thingsthey know are false. Since when are untrue slurs a progressive value?

  7. There is a factional war going on at KPFA– and it’s got deep roots.  There are some very real differences between the two sides, but the venom and disconnect is absurd for a radio built on the concept of peace and justice.  When we who are so involved in the station can begin to talk to each other, the various philosophies and political issues can be fought out without destroying this radio station we all care about so much.  When you can, cast “your vote” for decreasing the public relations fight
    and bringing all sides to some table for a hearty meal of
    humility and peacebuilding.

  8. Good work Steve, .KPFK LSB voted to stop using the services of Jackson Lewis. We must stop all Union busters. ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE! Chuck Anderson

  9. Steve Zeltzer is the truth at KPFA. The CWA Union doesn’t represent the majority of the non-white listeners…

    • Right, and that’s from the anti-union guy making the incredibly racist remarks in the video. Do you have any idea how offensive you are to the spirit of KPFA?

      • JR Valrey isn’t racist or anti-union. Stop name-calling and deal with the substance of the issues. He is far from the only person pointing out the racial disparities at KPFA. People have been saying it for 20+ years. 

  10. Steve Zeltzer is a scab. He’s “reporting” on the same situation in which he is scabbing. Disgraceful.

    • Steve Zeltzer, Jr Valrey and a few hundred other people have been unpaid members of the KPFA staff, who work and produce radio there, for a decade or more. Referring to them as scabs is inaccurate, nonsensical and deeply offensive. The staff members posting here anonymously are giving you an eagles-eye view as to why KPFA is such a troubled workplace. There is no paid am host position for anyone to occupy. It was eliminated 18 months in budget cuts following 2 consecutive years of operating deficits of more than half a million dollars. 

      • Well put:  “There is no paid am host position for anyone to occupy.”  Or scab on.  That label is insulting to Steve, J.R. Valrey, Adrienne Lauby, Anthony Fest, André Soto, Mickey Huff, and Peter Phillips.   Steve, J.R., Adrienne and Anthony have given years of invaluable work to KPFA, unpaid, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think that Mickey and Peter’s Friday Project Censored hour is great for KPFA.

        That said, I didn’t have a complaint with the old Morning Show.  I liked it; I listened more mornings than not.  But I wasn’t willing to see the station or the network go under for failure to live within its means, and I was most upset that previous management, long before the Morning Show layoffs, had laid off the website designer – about seven years ago according to a KPFA engineer I consulted last week.  

        The website designer was needed to help KPFA adapt to new media.  NPR and Democracy Now have adapted and it’s one of the reasons they’re thriving.  Last summer NPR was showing off its new Drupal website interface at the Bay Area Drupal Developers Conference at Cal, but KPFA didn’t even have a staffer there, even though KPFA is running on a Drupal software platform.

      • Don’t twist the words, Elizabeth. No one is referring to the unpaid staff as scabs. Many are referring to a FEW unpaid staff and paid staff as scabs, because that’s shorthand for those workers who don’t give a hoot about the collective situation of all KPFA workers, and willingly take advantage of the situation. A metaphor, get it?

        These scabs will take the place of KPFA workers attacked by management. Or they’ll not stand up for their comrades who are “disciplined” for merely reporting or mentioning what is happening the the station. They are happy with the reign of idiocy that Ms. Engelhardt has instituted because they profit from it. 

        Those are KPFA’s scabs, and they number only a few handfuls, not a few hundred. Incidentally, if you put them all in one room they’d be about 90% white, 90% older, and mostly guys.