NAda802074 at NAda802074 at
Thu Aug 12 18:44:31 MDT 1999

KPFA back on air

By Herb Kaye

BERKELEY, Calif. - After 23 days of turmoil following the firing of
station manager Nicole Sawaya and then veteran broadcasters Larry Bensky
and Robbie Osman, the staff of the nation's premier independent radio
station, KPFA, were allowed to go back to work, though without the
reinstatement of Sawaya and Bensky.

The station staff saw the return to work as a partial victory, brought
about by the broad mass support and pressure on the Pacifica management
which controls KPFA. That pressure was clearly demonstrated at the great
march and rally of 15,000 in Martin Luther King Park on July 31, where
the mayors of Berkeley and San Francisco, leaders of the California
Labor Federation, as well as many local union leaders and other
community leaders and activists made clear their support for maintaining
the 50-year tradition of KPFA as a radical, fearless, independent voice
for the voiceless.

Once back on the air, veteran broadcaster Dennis Bernstein and other
staff members berated Pacifica management for its heavy-handed policy of
firing staff people without hearings and denying democratic
representation of local stations on the Pacifica board.

They charge that Pacifica chair Mary Frances Berry and Executive
Director Lynn Chadwick have been with the organization less than two
years, yet they have arbitrarily fired veteran staff people with 20 or
more years service and have pressed for more commercially oriented kind
of programming.

Though Pacifica has increased its share of revenue raised from local
listeners from 4 percent to 17 percent in the past 20 years, it has used
much of that money to hire union busters to fight station staff during
contract negotiations, and to hire armed guards and high paid
consultants in its fight with the staff.

More than 25 of the workers at KPFA are represented by local 9415 CWA
which has a contract with Pacifica, which Pacifica ignored when it
arbitrarily ousted all 25 along with several hundred volunteer workers
and apprentices on July 13. The ignoring of the union contract and the
threat to the pro-labor, anti-establishment character of KPFA from
Pacific management brought the unanimous support of all four Bay Area
Labor Federations and the California Federation of Labor strongly on the
side of the embattled KPFA staff.

The broad coalition of community organizations that has formed in
support of KPFA staff are demanding that the Pacifica Board allow
representation from all local affiliates on its board, and that Sawaya
and Bensky be reinstated. They are also demanding firm assurances that
Pacifica will not sell KPFA to private investors or try in other ways to
change the progressive, independent character of KPFA.

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