(en) Labor Leaders Meet With KPFK and Pacifica

Lyn Gerry (redlyn@loop.com)
Mon, 6 Jan 1997 19:54:08 +0000

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------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- Date: Mon, 6 Jan 1997 19:04:22 -0800 (PST) From: MichaelP <papadop@peak.org>


By Per Fagereng

Last October 3, a group of California labor officials met with Pacifica Radio's Executive Director Pat Scott and Mark Schubb, general manger of KPFK in Los Angeles.

Although the unionists were aware of all the controversies swirling around Pacifica and its stations, they were there for a more limited purpose -- to deal with labor negotiations at KPFK and charges that the station had hired a law firm known for its union-busting activities.

"This rather unusual meeting took place because KPFK is in a rather unusual position," wrote Sabina Virgo (of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) in a follow-up letter to Scott and Schubb. "Most of us view the station as part of 'our community...

"In a period where progressive channels of communication are constricting, the role of KPFK becomes even more critical. Because this period is characterized by escalating attacks on working people and the unions that represent us, we believe that KPFK's management style, and 'code of conduct', should be above reproach and serve as a model for the community at large."

Virgo then outlined agreements reached at the meeting: -- KPFK would end any relationship with American Consulting Group (the union buster) under any name. It would not deal with any other union busters, or any outfit on the AFL-CIO's unfair list. -- "KPFK agrees that all non-managerial personnel shall be covered by the union contract." This was a sore point in earlier talks. KPFK and WBAI (New York) had wanted to exclude unpaid volunteers from the bargaining units. The United Electrical Workers in New York filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB has not yet mad a ruling. -- KPFK would seat two labor people on its advisory board, choosing from a list provided by the unionists.

By Christmas time no contract had been reached. According to a KPFK staff person, negotiations were going well. She said station manager Schubb was optimistic that an agreement would happen soon.


In New York, the union local at WBAI has been without a contract since last March. If filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, charging that WBAI is trying to destroy the union by removing unpaid volunteers from the bargaining unit. So far the NLRB has not ruled, and this has effectively stalled the negotiations.

On December 17, the union mounted a picket line at the station. It demanded health benefits for part-time staff, no reduction in the bargaining unit and an immediate contract. According to UE's R. Paul Martin, the lunch-hour picket line was joined by WBAI staff people, and it got management to withdraw one of its more onerous contract demands.

Meanwhile in Berkeley, union members at KPFA are working under a one- year extension of its current contract. But this will expire in March 1997. According to Lyn Gerry, the shop steward at KPFK in Los Angeles who was fired by the station, the Berkeley union is awaiting "the contract from hell." She says this proposed contract was prepared by the accused union-buster, American Consulting Group, and Pacifica will try to impose it on its union employees.


KOOP is a community station in Austin, Texas. Last fall it began broadcasting a disclaimer before and after Pacifica news that noted the labor dispute and union-busting charges. In December the station got a phone call from Pacifica news producer Julie Drizen.

According to Comrade Odekirk, a KOOP trustee, Drizen was "extremely rude," called the disclaimer inaccurate, and said it was hurting her career. Odekirk says he and other trustees were also phoned at their homes.

At issue was the difference between Pacifica Foundation and Pacifica Network News. According to DRizen, all the news people are members of another union and are not involved with the UE dispute.

Odekirk then wrote the following new disclaimer: "Pacifica Network News is produced by a unionized work force with a contract, but the Pacifica Foundation is currently in a labor dispute with its unionized workers at WBAI/New York and KPFK/Los Angeles. Pacifica is no longer using a union busting consulting firm for its contract negotiations with the United Electrical Workers. Pacifica has said they will negotiate with the UE in good faith with the goal of having a fair contract with its unionized workers, but Pacifica has not withdrawn its attempt to exclude 90 percent of the workers from union protection or other contract proposals that the workers do not consider fair or equitable. KOOP will continue to monitor the situation."

When I first phoned Drizen she told me she had not seen the new disclaimer and could not comment on it. When I called her two days later she said the disclaimer had arrived and it too was inaccurate. When I asked her for specifics she said I should call Mary Tilson, Pacifica's station relations director.

Tilson said she has not had time to study the revised disclaimer and cannot comment until after the holidays.

Meanwhile another community station, WORT in Madison, Wisconsin, is broadcasting a similar disclaimer preceding Pacifica news.


In the fall of 1995, Pacifica's National Board held a meeting near Houston. Most of the meeting was closed to the public, which prompted critics to file a complaint with the Inspector General of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

About a month later the investigator, Brian McConville, was fired by IG Lester Latney. In February 1996 Latney said that the investigation was on hold, and later in the year he resigned due to ill health.

The investigation is back on track, however. Michael Donovan, former deputy IG, has been named acting inspector general, and he will conduct the investigation himself. He said he hopes to have it completed by the end of January.

Since the Houston meeting, the Pacifica board has held several others that were mostly behind closed doors. These will also be included in the current investigation, says Donovan.



In "The Problem with Pacifica" (PFP, Nov-Dec, 96) I reported that Pacifica Executive Director Pat Scott had said that an elected national board would be all white. That brought this letter from Bill Mandel, a long-time scholar and commentator whose firing from KPFA in 1995 became a major part of the ongoing Pacifica story.

(Mandel letter)

Although the last six named to KPFA's advisory board are white, I've been told that two of the last nine are black. According to one member, the board consists of about twenty people and it is a diverse group. I called Pat Scott and got the following response: "I don't want to talk to you. I'm on another line. Good-bye."

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