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Thu, 13 Mar 1997 23:52:37 GMT

** media.issues: 37.0 **/ ** Topic: Pacifica Fighting Unon With Ex-Gov Flak ** ** Written 5:12 PM Mar 11, 1997 by labornews in cdp:media.issues ** From: Institute for Global Communications <labornews@igc.apc.org> Subject: Pacifica Fighting Unon With Ex-Gov Flak Sender: a-infos-request@tao.ca Precedence: list Reply-To: a-infos-d@tao.ca

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March 5, 1997 SF Bay Guardian

PACIFICA POLITIKING: New spokesperson is former G-man, network battles union rights.

By Belinda Griswold

CRITICS OF the listener-supported Pacifica Radio Network are sounding alarms over actions taken by management during the past two weeks. Detractors say Pacifica leadership's recent moves -- hiring a communications director from the Justice Department and appealing a federal labor ruling -- raise disturbing questions.

On Feb. 21 the network hired Burt Glass to be its full-time communications director. But many progressives question the propriety of hiring someone with his professional background.

An internal Pacifica memo, the Department of Justice's Web site, and Glass himself all confirm that Glass has worked as a spokesperson for the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). As such he wrote speeches and public relations material for the department, which provides funds for expanded hiring, training, and technical assistance to police departments across the country.

Glass also worked for the decidedly moderate League of Conservation Voters and for the antinuclear organization SANE/Freeze.

His appointment has been met with disbelief by Pacifica's critics.

"That a person with Glass's background would even be interviewed for a job with Pacifica is a betrayal of all the values Pacifica stands for," Maria Gilardin of Take Back KPFA told the Bay Guardian.

Inside the network's five stations, staff members have been reluctant to speak publicly for fear of reprisal, but a few have openly expressed concern.

One staffer at Pacifica's New York station, WBAI, who requested anonymity, said Glass's appointment did not bode well.

"I'm surprised we would hire someone from the Justice Department who writes speeches and P.R. for the police," she said.

Flashpoints producer Dennis Bernstein, when reached for comment, said that though he could not speak about internal policy for fear of losing his job, "it certainly would be a good time to have somebody who would be on the front line fighting against police power" -- particularly, he added, in light of a recent Temple University decision to stop broadcasting Pacifica excerpts of interviews with death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Syndicated columnist and media critic Norman Solomon also questioned Pacifica's priorities.

"Pacifica's top management seems to be intent on improving its public image," he told the Bay Guardian. "But what's needed right now is evident sincerity in reaching out to progressive constituencies -- including the many employees, volunteers, and listeners who believe that the bottom line has become too much of a priority."

Glass defended his record as a progressive, noting that he worked for the Justice Department for only a year. He said he considers community policing a progressive arm of law enforcement.

"I think I have a very progressive background, and I'm really glad to be at Pacifica," he told the Bay Guardian.

And in another development in the long-running war of words between Pacifica and its unions, the network has announced that it will appeal a National Labor Relations Board ruling that reaffirmed that unpaid staff, who for nine years have been members of the station's union, have a right to the benefits and protections that go along with their membership.

For nine years, volunteers at WBAI -- who produce much of the station's programming -- have been active members of the United Electrical Workers Union.

But last March Pacifica tried to have the volunteers kicked out of the New York local, a move that would have eliminated their grievance rights as well as their right to participate on the station's programming council. When the union opposed the request, management demanded that the labor board rule on the matter; the board subsequently ruled in favor of the union's position.

WBAI staff are convinced that management's drive to end representation for unpaid staff is a veiled attempt to weaken the union, since it would dramatically reduce the size of the local's bargaining unit and remove the voices of unpaid staff from crucial personnel and programming decisions.

The WBAI staffer we spoke to said, "No matter what they call it, when you remove 85 to 90 percent of the union membership, it's union-busting. We think that management wants to free up airtime from producers, the majority of whom are unpaid staff. This is the first step: remove them first, and then they cannot file a grievance."

In a Feb. 18 press release Pacifica executive director Pat Scott denied charges of union-busting and even implied that management was pressing for the exclusion of unpaid staff from the union to protect paid workers (an assertion vehemently disputed by WBAI staffers). And when questioned about the press release Glass said the network could not comment further.

At any rate, the fight seems to be heating up. And WBAI staffers say that although they are prohibited from discussing the matter on the air by a network-wide gag rule, they are encouraging listeners to protest the use of membership dues for legal fees.

"We're fighting because we want to keep all the stations community supported. We don't want to turn into another version of NPR. And we don't want to have our listeners give the station money to pay legal fees to bust the union," the WBAI staffer said.

** End of text from cdp:media.issues **

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