Remembering Pacifica’s history of censorship

Upon hearing about the new gag rule, listener Barbara Fitzpatrick wrote to Engelhardt, “You have to be kidding, have you no sense of history? Or for that matter any notion of decency, or appreciation of all those who struggled ten years ago? This is Pacifica, not Clear Channel. The hypocrisy of management at this time is disgusting.  Just leave, you are not going to win.”

Pacifica last tried to silence reporting of developments in the network back in 1999, when it fired radio hosts Larry Bensky and Robbie Osman, among others, for speaking out on-air about Pacifica matters. The network also fired its national news director Dan Coughlin and tried to censor Amy Goodman‘s Democracy Now! for their reports on Pacifica. That provoked a nationwide movement to return the network to its mission, including an historic strike of Pacifica’s freelancers that resulted in the creation of Free Speech Radio News.

Pacifica’s national board voted unanimously to “end censorship of any programming throughout the network” when it settled the strike of its freelance contributors in 2002.  Pacifica even has a page about this proud history on its website.

Management’s current undermining of editorial independence runs counter to KPFA’s own long-standing news policy, which states the News will report “on matters regarding KPFA, Pacifica, its personnel or Board of Directors with the same vigor and candor as it would report on other institutions or individuals.”

Attacks on KPFA journalists also have come from a group of board members affiliated with Tracy Rosenberg. KPFA’s own local station board passed a resolution in March 2010 defending KPFA journalists’ rights to cover internal issues with “the same editorial autonomy they enjoy when reporting on external issues.” The vote was 14-7, and the 7 voting against were aligned with Rosenberg’s board faction — the group at Pacifica national that hired and now protects Arlene Engelhardt.

Union grievance forces Pacifica to reinstate laid off staffer; Judge issues TRO against Pacifica

Pacifica management is reinstating former Morning Show co-host Brian Edwards-Tiekert with back pay and other benefits — but he will be employed starting Monday, February 28 as a news reporter rather than as a morning co-host. Edwards-Tiekert, who is outspoken on station issues and critical of management, was laid off out of seniority order. An arbitration on his case had been pending.

“Legally speaking, Pacifica management is throwing in the towel,” wrote Edwards-Tiekert in a letter to supporters. “After three months of stonewalling, they have given our union a ‘make whole’ offer for my grievance: that means they’ll be putting me back on payroll, with back pay. Pacifica has basically conceded it can’t win the pending arbitration over my dismissal. This is a victory for our union in enforcing its contract.” PRESS COVERAGE: East Bay Express | KPFA News | | Bay Area Observer

Until the settlement this week, Pacifica management had claimed repeatedly that its layoffs would be upheld by a neutral arbitrator. Co-host Aimee Allison’s arbitration hearing is still going forward, according to

Supporters are redoubling their efforts in the wake of the win. “Brian’s return to the station is an important victory, but we are not going to rest until Aimee Allison, David Bacon and all the other Morning Show staff, paid and unpaid, are back as well,” said KPFA board member Pamela Drake. “Pacifica was not following the union contract, which protects workers from being singled out on the basis of their political positions.”

We urge everyone to give generously during the current KPFA fund drive – here’s our advice for listeners who’ve asked us how to donate.

New financial details about KPFA’s budget

Financial documents show that KPFA was already outperforming its budget by $290,000 in the first quarter of this fiscal year, casting serious doubt on Pacifica’s claims that it needed to lay off Morning Show co-hosts Aimee Allison and Brian Edwards-Tiekert to meet budget targets (the combined cost of both their salaries and benefits is in the vicinity of $80,000). | SEE LINE 51 COLUMN K OF THIS SPREADSHEET

“These financials go only through December, before KPFA gained any savings from the layoffs because it was still paying severance to most laid off staff at that time,” said Barbara Whipperman, KPFA’s local board treasurer. “In fact, this shows that Pacifica may have generated an unreasonably pessimistic budget in order to justify the layoffs.”

Results from the first week of KPFA’s pledge drive show that the new morning lineup is raising much less than before. | SEE GRAPH

Pacifica hit with TRO and injunction in two separate legal rulings within a week

An Alameda County Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on February 23 prohibiting the Pacifica National Board from discussing KPFA issues at its upcoming meeting in Houston, and setting a date for a full hearing on March 18.

“This is the third legal ruling in as many months against the out-of-control Pacifica national board,” said board member Dan Siegel. “Making up reasons to throw democratically-elected representatives off its board is not the way to run a national progressive radio network.”

The ruling was in response to a petition filed last Friday by a majority of the members of KPFA’s Local Station Board. In January, SaveKPFA members Andrea Turner, Dan Siegel, and Laura Prives won election to Pacifica’s National Board, marking a major loss of power for the group led by Tracy Rosenberg that backed the termination of KPFA’s Morning Show. Then, without notice, the incumbent members of the Pacifica National office threw Dan Siegel off both the local and national board, using an absurd misinterpretation of the Pacifica bylaws. They illegally extended the tenure of incumbent national board members Joe Wanzala and Shahram Aghamir, who had been due to be replaced by the SaveKPFA representatives.

“Pacifica faces critical issues right now,” said KPFA local board chair Margy Wilkinson, a member of SaveKPFA. “At a time when the right is attempting to bust unions nationwide, and millions in the Middle East are rising up for democracy, we should be using our resources to further social justice. We should not be forced to go to court in endless battles over the network’s governance.”

The ruling follows two recent similar court actions. Pacifica was slapped with an injunction on February 18 after a KPFK/Los Angeles staff delegate went to court to prevent the network from illegally annulling an election there. Another injunction was issued in December requiring Pacifica to refrain from annulling KPFA’s staff delegate election and requiring it to seat democratically-elected SaveKPFA-affiliated rep Lewis Sawyer.

KPFA labor programmer David Bacon speaks out

Morning Show labor programmer David Bacon issued this letter about the terminations of hosts Aimee Allison and Brian Edwards-Tiekert, and KPFA’s union’s request for other staff to support them. Bacon says he believes “that the union contract and the labor rights of those two people have been violated. Their request is like a picketline…and in solidarity, I won’t cross it.” Bacon asks listeners to write Pacifica on the matter.

The South Bay Central Labor Council, the umbrella organization for over 100 unions and 110,000 workers in Santa Clara and San Benito counties, has unanimously passed a resolution supporting KPFA’s workers and calling for the Morning Show’s return. Similar resolutions had previously been passed by the Alameda County and San Francisco labor councils.

SF Board of Supes resolution pending, judge orders injunction against Pacifica

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors discussed a resolution to support KPFA workers on Tuesday, but delayed a vote until the next meeting. Supervisors Avalos, Mar, Mirkarimi and Campos have co-sponsored the measure.

At Berkeley’s Tuesday city council meeting, Mayor Tom Bates tried to get Pacifica’s executive director Arlene Engelhardt to agree to mediation over the staff issues, but Engelhardt declined. She admitted that she “skipped over” KPFA workers with less seniority than Allison and Edwards-Tiekert in the layoff process because she felt they had vague “special skills.” City council members Darryl Moore and Linda Maio both put forth resolutions supporting KPFA’s staff, but neither won enough votes to pass.

Meanwhile, Pacifica management’s attempts to throw out the votes of several staff members who voted in the recent local board election have met with a preliminary injunction from an Alameda County Superior Court judge. The judge ordered Lewis Sawyer, a staff candidate, seated on the local board.

Ways to help KPFA today: pledge, dance!

KPFA is conducting an on-air fund drive this week, and the community is responding generously. Reports from KPFA phone volunteers indicate that many listeners are also mentioning their desire for all the Morning Show’s staff to return, and for programming to be locally-controlled. We hope you’ll contribute in whatever way you feel comfortable.

Another way to is participate in SaveKPFA’s PLEDGE TO RESTORE THE MORNING SHOW (online version | mail in version), which has a goal of $80,000. So far, listeners have pledged over $42,000 — enough to return the Morning Show to the air for 6 months. Please help put us over the top!

We also encourage you to attend Bay Area Artists Unite for KPFA, a benefit this Sunday, December 19 from 7 to 10pm at La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave in Berkeley. Admission is $15-50 sliding scale, $10 for students, and proceeds go to KPFA.