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The Union at WBAI

The final developments are these: after Pacifica Management removed all of the Unpaid Staff from the Collective Bargaining Unit and therefore from the Union at WBAI there were only some of the Paid Staff left. After the December 2000, coup many illegal hires were made. Management then dragged its heels on Contract negotiations and pressured the Paid Staff with promises of raises and improved benefits once AFTRA replaced UE as the WBAI Union. The rest of the story is told in the following two memos.

UE logo MEMORANDUM TO: All WBAI Paid & Unpaid Staff

FROM: R. Paul Martin

DATE: August 3, 2001

RE: Recent developments

On July 25th, Unionized Paid Staff, along with illegal hires made by Management since December 22nd, met with UE Rep. Bruce Klipple in the Conference Room at WBAI to discuss the issue of Union representation.

At that meeting it was decided to investigate the possibility of switching Unions to the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (AFTRA).

As everyone knows, previous Management secured a ruling from the National Labor Relations Board in 1999, removing the Unpaid Staff from the Collective Bargaining Unit. AFTRA has stated that it will have nothing to do with Unpaid Staff.

Should a switch occur everyone will be notified.


cc: Bruce Klipple (U.E. Rep.)

UE logo MEMORANDUM TO: All WBAI Paid & Unpaid Staff

FROM: R. Paul Martin

DATE: October 15, 2001

RE: Status of Union switch over

AFTRA has gathered enough votes from the NLRB recognized Collective Bargaining Unit (CBU) to certify it as the new Union at WBAI. It is thought that the process will be complete and AFTRA will formally take over as the Union at WBAI by the end of October, pending final agreement between AFTRA and Pacifica Management.

The process is going more slowly than anticipated owing to Pacifica Management wanting to have a mediator count the cards that AFTRA says it has. There may be some other issues as well, but those are between AFTRA and Pacifica Management.

Until agreement is reached between AFTRA and Pacifica Management, WBAI/UE Local 404 is still the Union at WBAI. Our UE rep. Bruce Klipple and Pacifica Management's lawyer Larry Drapkin are signing an extension of the current Contract, so everyone is still covered. I've posted the extension document in the Union Bulletin Board.

As has been outlined in previous memos, Unpaid Staff have been removed from the Collective Bargaining Unit at WBAI and will not be represented by AFTRA. Still, Unpaid Staff produce the bulk of the programming at WBAI. A situation where the people who produce most of the programming aren't represented in an organized way sounds like a recipe for instability, as has happened at some Pacifica stations.

This is probably my last communication with you as Chief Steward. It's been a hell of a 14½ years and every time I've addressed the Paid and Unpaid Staff I've pointed out that WBAI is not a frequency or some electronic equipment, it's the people who contribute in one way or another to what the listeners hear. Let's hope that this truism informs future Managements.

A copy of this memo will be posted on the Web at http://www.glib.com/union.html.


cc: Bruce Klipple (U.E. Rep.)

The rest of this page is left here as an archive of what happened.

There is a Union at WBAI. We're part of Amalgamated Local 404 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (U.E.)

Pacifica Management fired WBAI General Manager Valerie Van Isler, and staged a “midnight coup” beginning at 10:55 PM on December 22nd, 2000. This, of course, is seen by some as a prelude to an attempt to generally eviscerate WBAI. Others believe it was a necessary change, although no one likes Pacifica Management's tactics in this affair.

In the Summer of 1999, Pacifica Management went berserk and locked out the entire Staff of KPFA! It was more than three weeks before KPFA returned to the air. The entire Pacifica network is still in disarray.

The Pacifica Network's remaining national program, Democracy Now!, is under attack. There's more information if you want to learn more about the Theft of Pacifica

WBAI/Pacifica Management has used the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to kick people out of the WBAI Union.

Back in November 1995, WBAI Management filed a “clarification of unit” petition with the NLRB seeking to remove the Business Director job from the Collective Bargaining Unit. In April 1996, WBAI Management amended their petition to ask for the removal of the Unpaid Staff at WBAI from the CBU. The New York Regional NLRB ruled, in February 1997, that the Paid and Unpaid Staff that Management was trying to kick out were validly members of the Collective Bargaining Unit. Pacifica/WBAI Management spent a lot of listener sponsors' money on appealing the part of the decision which related to the Unpaid Staff to the NLRB in Washington, D.C. In an order dated August 26, 1999, the NLRB overturned the Regional decision and ordered the Unpaid Staff of WBAI removed from the CBU and the Union. This is a tremendous blow against WBAI's Union. It is also a blow against the nationwide efforts to win the right to organize for various other workers including those made to work for the State while on public assistance.

Related Links

The Union began as an idea at WBAI in 1986, when there was considerable uproar over the problems caused by a new Program Director who had no understanding of WBAI, exhibited bad manners, cultivated an inability to deal honestly with people and who didn't know what he was doing in the first place. Unlike previous attempts to form a Union at WBAI, especially after the 1977, lockout of the Staff by Management, this one actually worked. In May 1987, a Contract was signed and WBAI was officially Unionized.

Currently there is a terrible crisis facing everyone at WBAI. The Pacifica Foundation, which owns WBAI and four other stations, is attempting to bust the Union at WBAI. The Union busting attempt began in earnest in the Spring of 1996, when Union and Management finally sat down to negotiate a new Contract, after Management had delayed the process. The Union negotiating committee was shocked to find WBAI Management demanding give backs, even after WBAI ended up with a six figure surplus after Fiscal Year 1995, demanding that some Paid Staff and all Unpaid Staff be removed from the Collective Bargaining Unit (CBU) and from the protection of the Union, and demanding that some workers become “employees at will,” which means that they may be fired at any time, without just cause, at the whim of Management. We later found that what WBAI Management had presented to us was the “Contract From Hell,” written for them by a Union-busting firm named The American Consulting Group, which they were also trying to shove down the throats of the other Unionized Pacifica stations.

The Unpaid Staff were taken out of the CBU at KPFA (Berkeley, CA) and the remaining Paid Staff regretted it. Of course the Unpaid Staff also were in a bad spot because they were then thrown off the air and out of the station. Meanwhile the real villains in this picture, the Pacifica National Board, moved to make KPFA a bland shadow of its former self. At sister station KPFK (Los Angeles, CA) similar things have been done and Paid Staff are fired on a whim and there's not much that can be done about it because, well, things are different out there.

The Pacifica National Board turned its withered hand to WBAI in early 1996. They know that in order to make of it a bland thing which they can turn to their own purposes they need first to break the Union at WBAI. Otherwise their efforts will face united, organized resistance . This struggle is going on right now. By following the links on this page you can find out as much as you like about the Union at WBAI, and the hypocritical actions being taken against it by the Pacifica National Board and its minions.

Here's an update on the current Contract negotiations.

Press Coverage

In October 1999, the WBAI Union staged an informational picket line in advance of the Pacifica National Board meeting. Here's our press release and some coverage this demonstration got in the New York Daily News.

The folks at the Free Pacifica! Web site have been compiling a comprehensive collection of “press clippings” from various media for a while now.

Some of the press has taken notice of the hypocrisy of Pacifica. Current, a magazine devoted to public broadcasting, has published an article on this story.

On July 16, 1996, two WBAI Unpaid Staff members and the then Chair of the WBAI Local Board discussed the issue of union busting at WBAI on WNYC radio.

Z Magazine did an article on an earlier phase of the current Pacifica crisis. The author did all right for many of the California issues, I'm told, but he fell down on his understanding of the Unpaid Staff issue at WBAI.

Early on in this struggle we sent a letter out to everyone we could about what the Pacifica National Board is doing to us.

On February 28, 1999, the members of the Pacifica National Board stole the entire radio network! Find out more about the theft of Pacifica!

Back to the page about WBAI.

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The contents of this Web page and subsequent Web pages on this site are copyright © 1996-2001, R. Paul Martin