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B u l l e t i n !

A newsletter about the Contract negotiations at WBAI. Presented by the WBAI Shop Committee September 9, 1997 #9

Is WBAI Really Moving? To Wall St? Is This Move a Wise Idea?

For the past 19 years plans to move the station from its premises at 505 8th Ave. have come and gone. This time WBAI Management, bolstered by the on-again/off-again enthusiasm of Pacifica Executive Director Pat Scott, says it's for real. Is this a move to improve station conditions, or a new maneuver in Pat Scott's campaign to homogenize Pacifica and turn WBAI into a mere satellite? WBAI's General Manager Valerie Van Isler says that Pat Scott had promised that Pacifica would lend WBAI $300,000 for the move, originally estimated to cost around $1.2 million, but Scott has now only tentatively agreed to a $200,000 loan. Additionally, WBAI will be using the same architect that Pat Scott used for the building that houses KPFA in Berkeley. When asked about this architect, Paid and Unpaid Staff from KPFA agreed that he had done a terrible job. Studios were originally not sound-proofed well and extra padding has had to be installed in their Master Control at a cost of $50,000. Other studios still bleed sound and provide an unwanted echo effect when used. Wiring for both electricity and phone lines was inadequate and KPFA cannot now install any more phone lines because of the bad design. It is reported that the engineers at KPFA are constantly frustrated by the inferior architecture of the station.

Will jobs be lost due to the move?

Valerie Van Isler has stated that there will be a "restructuring" of jobs if WBAI moves to 120 Wall St. Whether this means outright firings or cutting more jobs to below the 20 hour/week minimum required for medical benefits she hasn't said.

Security? Access for Unpaid Staff?

Management has tried to paint a rosy picture of the security conditions in and around the building at 120 Wall St., emphasizing that it has cameras with security guards watching them. It's not clear if cameras would be sited in WBAI's space. Whether this building is safe or not, the station is currently left unsupervised for 56 hours every week. This is the time when most of the thefts occur at the station. People are producing programs at these times, but no one's really watching the place, and Management wants to cut back the people who come on at 10 PM or midnight and thereby leave the station and producers even more vulnerable. KPFA deals with security by having almost everything locked. Some people are issued personal codes for the combination locks, but even they need additional codes for access to studios, etc. Every access is recorded by a computer and can be printed out. Personal storage for Unpaid Staff (lockers, etc.) is almost unknown at KPFA, and there is currently very little working space for Unpaid Staff. The only lounge-like area is directly across from the General Manager's office.

The Money Issue

The main funding for this move is supposed to come from a Capital Campaign that the station will run in 1998. But, as the General Manager's Staff Meeting of August 27th, showed, more and more listeners are learning about Management's Union busting activities. Counting on the listeners to fund the move, along with paying for lawyers to fight the Union at the NLRB and to keep fired employees from getting unemployment, may be asking a bit much of a progressive listenership. Speaking of money, Management likes to contrast WBAI's current space, which costs $23/sq. ft., with 120 Wall St. where it would cost $16.74/sq. ft. However, there's more floor space at Wall St. and WBAI's rent would rise by about $20,000/year as a result of this move.

Want to Have Your Say About the Future of WBAI? If You're Unpaid Staff Management Says NO!

WBAI Management has already held a day long "1997, Strategic Planning Session," but it was closed to Unpaid Staff. Even many Paid Staff were under the impression that this was an invitation-only meeting. As a result only 9 people showed up! Hardly a significant number considering that there are about 28 Paid Staff and about 150 Unpaid Staff who will be directly affected by this move. The second meeting on the move will be held on September 13th, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM at The Support Center, 305 7th Ave. Management is trying to separate the Paid and Unpaid Staff at the station with these tactics of exclusion, and will also cite these closed meetings as evidence at the NLRB hearings in Washington, D.C. later this year. The Union thinks that all Paid and Unpaid Staff should attend the above meeting. Let's tell Management that they can't divide and conquer!

Bill Wells Wins Unemployment Battle! Victory Seen as Harbinger of Arbitration Results.

Bill Wells was unfairly fired as Chief Engineer early this year. The Union has filed a grievance on his firing, but there's been a prelude to the arbitration hearing. WBAI Management tried to prevent him from collecting unemployment insurance. Valerie Van Isler had said that she was doing this in order to save the station money. However, she and Management's lawyer, Mel Wulf, went to four hearings on four different days in an attempt to deny Bill Wells the unemployment insurance which the law says he's entitled to! Management has been unwilling to say how these maneuvers were supposed to save money. However, Bill Wells, represented by UE Field Rep. Chris Costello, won his case. His unemployment compensation has been given to him, and Management has lost on all counts. Their arguments and delaying tactics showed that they had no case for either denying Bill Wells unemployment compensation or for firing him in the first place. It is thought that the arguments put forth by Management in this case are the same ones that they'll use in the arbitration hearings. Management's "facts" were shown to be lies and half- truths, this failed once and it should fail the second time they try it.

General Manager's Staff Meeting

At the insistence of the Shop Committee, Valerie Van Isler has consented to hold the General Manager's Staff Meetings she's contractually required to hold. The first of these was held on August 27th. The other was to be held later in September, but we have heard that she's going to have to reschedule it because it conflicts with a WBAI Local Board meeting. Watch for announcements about the next General Manager's Staff Meeting!

Permanent Hires to be Made for Positions

Management has tried to make a practice of hiring people as temporary or interim workers, and then denying them their rights. The Shop Committee has convinced Management to make permanent hires for Chief Announcer, News Director, Reporter and Production Assistant.

Grievances and Unfair Labor Practice charges filed

As mentioned above, the grievance about the unfair firing of Bill Wells is going to arbitration. For the first time Union and Management are going to use the American Arbitration Association for a grievance. Another grievance has been filed on Management's assignment of Wells' Chief Engineer duties to a "Management Consultant." This amounts to stealing of work from the Collective Bargaining Unit, and is also the subject of an Unfair Labor Practice charge against WBAI Management.

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