On March 30, 1996 the KPFA staff union officially notified management that we would not enter into negotiations on a new labor agreement but would instead exercise our right under the current contract for a one year extension of the existing pact. Several unprecedented actions by KPFA and Pacifica management caused us to make this decision.
First, in departure from years of past practice, management attempted to terminate the current contract upon its expiration date by officially notifying the union by certified letter as provided in the agreement.
Never before has management entered into negotiations by terminating the current agreement; in the past the management and union have always negotiated a new contract while under an extension of the old. (Ultimately management's attempt at termination was unsuccessful because the union was not given the sixty working days notice as specified in the contract.)
Second, in another departure from past practice, the union was informed that management had hired a labor consultant to conduct negotiations. All past negotiations have been handled by the station manager.
Now KPFA employees were being asked to negotiate a new labor agreement with an antagonist paid with the very funds that KPFA staff themselves raise on the air in appeals promising listeners their donated funds will be used for programming that furthers KPFA's mission of peace and social justice. Moreover, the person chosen to represent management had just completed contract negotiations with the employees of KQED radio where union representatives report she was nearly impossible to deal with.
Third, the union learned that the Executive Director of Pacifica had contracted with another labor consultant in Orange County to draft a contract that would be the basis for management's relationships with Pacifica's employees at all three of the unionized stations.
The very first article of this contract, the recognition clause, would virtually decertify the KPFA union since it excludes from union membership all supervisors, all on-air personnel, including producers, and volunteer workers. That clause alone would wipe out all but a handful of our union..
This contract has already led to extremely acrimonious negotiations at KPFK in Los Angeles.
With this series of actions, KPFA and Pacifica management created a climate in which contract negotiations could only proceed in mistrust and hostility and could only become bitter and destructive to the station and its mission.
KPFA's union is aware that some changes may be required for the station to survive and thrive in the new environment facing noncommercial media. In the past, we have been able to work out differences with management and to adapt to new conditions without the intervention of outsiders or paid consultants.
During the past year we demonstrated our commitment to changing our radio station to better confront the future by working in close cooperation with management to plan and implement the most extensive programming format change in a quarter century.
However, management's secret mobilization for these contract talks, with all the appearances of anti-labor tactics employed by the most anti-union private corporations (consultants, union-busting contracts), constitutes a betrayal of that spirit of cooperation and signals an alarming direction in which KPFA's treatment of its own employees may soon be at drastic odds with the progressive values it attempts to bring to its airwaves.
We sincerely hope that during the next year, prior to the time a new labor agreement is negotiated, KPFA and Pacifica management will carefully reassess their current approach to their employees and the union which represents them before irreparable damage is done to the reputation of an institution which for 47 years has held itself out as a progressive alternative.
cc: KPFA Local Board