Letter to KPFA Union Members
from Shop Steward Dennis Bernstein

From: dbernstein@igc.apc.org (Dennis Bernstein)
Subject: where's the porridge?/talking points


1. If we sign the proposal negotiated for management by union-busting lawyer Larry Drapkin, we give Pat Scott the right to hire and fire at will without reason and recourse, and make the very protest of such an action a fireable offense. Despite this, the proposal explicitly takes away our right to strike and compels us to cross another union's picket-line or face dismissal.

2. The proposed agreement creates an unfair and divisive two-tier system by granting current employees the very important protections that future Pacifica workers will no longer be accorded. Be assured that this profoundly unfair two-tier system has the potential to trigger great resentment among staffers, and will give a cunning, back-room brawler like Pat Scott the opening she's been itching for to wreak havoc among the staff.

3. If we rush to sign, our brothers and sisters at other stations will have a much tougher time of it. On the other hand, if we unify and tune our actions with our brothers and sisters, we are likely to get a better settlement and be able to set a positive precedent for those who come after us. Consider that WBAI union staff already has a 6% pay raise in their paychecks, retroactive to April, and they don't even have an agreement. This union busting proposal offers us 4% and excludes unpaid staff from union representation. Is 4% the best we can do? WBAI's shop has vehemently argued that the exclusion of unpaid staff and the ominous "at-will" hire and fire clause are non-negotiable. Should KPFA workers capitulate on these crucial points or continue to negotiate?

4. It is of grave concern that the management's lawyer actually put on the table as a bargaining point the gutting of the old contract's exemplary affirmative action clause. It is virtually irrelevant that they retreated on this issue. The idea that management's hired gun believes affirmative action is a negotiable point, at a network which now has as its chairperson, the noted equal-rights advocate, Mary Francis Berry, is profound. Any new contract we sign should in fact have a strengthened affirmative action clause that assumes the non-negotiable nature of affirmative action in this country, which remains extremely racist, sexist, and homophobic.

5. The NLRB decided, and it is morally and legally correct that unpaid staff be represented, based on the unique roll they play at Pacifica. We as a unit voted to abide by the NLRB decision. It is not good enough to say that unpaid staff didn't ask so they don't get represented. We as staff stood by in silence or actively participated in axing many members of the unpaid staff on behalf of management's vision. We must find a way, in the spirit of reconciliation and understanding, of reaching out to old and new unpaid staff. This will strengthen our bargaining position, not weaken it.

6. The very premise of management using listener funds to employ a high-paid union-buster to break our union spirit is immoral and a betrayal of what our listeners gave the money for in the first place. We are not Mobil or General Electric. We are a People's Alternative Radio Network. This is not bargaining in good faith. Management spending listener money against the very people who raise it must be vigorously questioned!!!

With all due respect for those who have expended much hard energy on our behalf, as one of your elected shop stewards, I recommend we continue to negotiate in good faith and fight the good fight for the rights we deserve!!! Power to the Workers!!

-To: Sister and Brother Unionists
From: Dennis Bernstein, shop steward CWA/KPFA
Re:Where's the Porridge 7/30/97

I choose again to address you on paper in order to make way for a quiet, more careful assessment of some of the serious pitfalls of the proposed agreement. For me, putting it on paper helps separate the passion from the porridge. I do know one thing for certain--and it was underlined with great clarity at yesterday's passion filled meeting: We who have carried this important community work along for our generation have made great sacrifices to do so and are starved for a fair share of the real porridge. Speaking of Porridge, by what percentage did Pat Scott's salary rise while ours remained nearly stagnant? How much listener money is she willing to spend to keep us as paupers. I assert that this proposed agreement gives us, the nuts and bolts workers of Pacifica, the glue that makes it all stick, an empty bowl of porridge and gives to Pacifica's current managers the absolute right, at whim and without explanation, to decide who comes and goes on the air. We are talking about absolute control over the message and the women and men who speak it. Given the current configuration, this gives Pat Scott the ultimate say on who gets what porridge, when, how much and on what basis. Indeed, the stakes are high for us, and I believe, for the future of the community-based radio-work we do at this unique network for which of course we, paid and unpaid workers, are merely the trusted stewards. Let's fight for what's right and what we and the community of listeners deserve!


BINDING ARBITRATION:Binding arbitration is meaningless for those who face hire and fire at will under the new proposed two-tier contract in which "Just Cause" and crucial progressive discipline guarantees are removed. The proposal states:"Notwithstanding the above(Just Cause), on-air and executive producer employees hired after 8-1-97 can be terminated without cause." Because management can fire at will there is no paper trail for an arbitrator to work from and nothing to decide. Management can fire a worker because they didn't act like a good soldier or were critical of management, because they said something negative about a political friend of management, or just because management may have a personal grudge against a particular worker. The only recourse the union will have is to capitulate or protest and risk disciplinary action, including firing. An arbitrator does not even come into the picture. "The Union," states the proposal, " it's officers, agents, members and employees of the Employer covered by this Agreement agree that so long as this Agreement is in effect, there shall be no strikes, sit-downs, job actions, stoppage of work, slowdowns, retardation of work procedures, boycott, sympathy strikes, corporate campaigns or any acts that interfere with the employer's operations...Any violation of the foregoing provisions may be made the subject of disciplinary action, including discharge." And the astounding reality of this new anti-union-action clause compels us to cross other union picket lines or face being sacked. For example, if AFTRA, which now represents some Pacifica workers goes on strike or carries out any job action at KPFA, and we refuse to cross the picket line or even attempt in any concerted effort as a CWA unit to show sympathy and support, we face the firing line.

MEDICAL BENEFITS:This aspect of the contract's unfair two-tier structure is literally a killer. Who among us can justify a dual standard of medical care for workers and their families just because they were hired after Jan 1, 1990. Adding insult to injury, the new proposal requires "Any increase in premium for coverage will be borne by the employee." This is exactly the kind of contractual agreement that will both create great animosity between employees with differing rights and ultimately preclude poor and working class people from joining our staff in the future. Indeed, this makes way for the famous and the well to do while leaving the already voiceless at their whim for airtime.


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