Report on Arbitration hearing held re:
fired WBAI Chief Engineer 
by R. Paul Martin, Chief Steward, UE Local 404, WBAI-FM

On Wednesday May 13, the second of two days of arbitration hearings was
held on the grievance brought by UE Local 404 on behalf of Bill Wells,
who was the Chief Engineer of WBAI and who was unfairly fired.

Basically, this arbitration hearing went pretty much along the lines of
the hearings held last year when WBAI Management brought in a lawyer to
fight Mr. Wells' claim to unemployment insurance.  In those hearings,
which took a total of four days spread over several months, Management's
position was described by our UE Rep. as ridiculous.  In the end
Management lost at those hearings and Mr. Wells was granted the
unemployment insurance to which he was entitled.  Of course he'd had to
do without for some months before he ended up getting a lump sum.

By fighting Mr. Wells' unemployment insurance WBAI Management had laid
out its case against Mr. Wells.  They couldn't deviate from this in the
arbitration hearings over his job without having to explain a new
story.  So they were locked in.

Management's lawyer for the unemployment insurance hearings was Burt
Pogrebin who'd handled the NLRB hearings in 1996, and who was also
employed by Management for these arbitration hearings.

Things went along pretty much as expected, except that Management showed
up with a surprise witness on the first day of hearings.  This was a
lawyer named Crigler, who is from the legal firm that advises Pacifica
on FCC matters.  He was there to talk about how Wells hadn't been at a
meeting, which Wells hadn't been informed about, on December 2, 1996,
and to say how terrible the logs were at WBAI.

Crigler went on about how important those logs are, and said that KPFT
has nearly lost its license over log problems.  On cross examination,
however, things looked a little less dire.  It turns out that WBAI
Management wanted to make a big deal of the fact that one of the log
sheets had a tear in it!  Crigler had to admit that legibility is the
only criterion for the logs, and that the tear was not a problem and the
log itself was perfectly legible.

WBAI Management had maintained that Wells' actions or inactions
threatened the license.  So the following exchange, paraphrased,
occurred in cross examination.

UE Rep. - How long has your company been doing this for Pacifica/WBAI?

Crigler - 18 years.

UE Rep. - So these logs are very important and you have to inspect
them.  How often do you go to the stations to inspect the logs?

Crigler - I try to get to each station in Pacifica once per cycle.

UE Rep. - What's a cycle?

Crigler - It's the license cycle, eight years.

UE Rep. - So you only get to WBAI to inspect these important logs once
every eight years?

Crigler - I said I tried to get to each station once every eight years.

UE Rep. - Before December 2, 1996, how many times had you been to WBAI
to inspect their logs?

Crigler - I'd never been to WBAI to inspect their logs before then.

UE Rep. - How many times since December 2, 1996, have you been to WBAI?

Crigler - I haven't been there since.

UE Rep. - So in the 18 years that you've serviced WBAI the only time you
ever went there to inspect it was on December 2, 1996?

Crigler - Yes.

And so it went.  The arbitrator must have been asking himself how
important this stuff must be if this guy only shows up once in 18 years,
but then shows up for the hearing.  WBAI Management had paid for his
round trip airfare from Washington, D.C. and for his time for a full

There was more stuff with Crigler, but our UE Rep. said, in the end he
turned into our witness.

A guess about the bottom line: a back of the envelope estimate was made
about the costs of the two days of arbitration, it came to $9,850, and
that's not counting preparation days or the value of two full days of
WBAI GM Valerie Van Isler's time.  So figure that it can't have cost
less than $10,000.  Several people have noted the digital equipment that
WBAI could have bought for ten grand.

Oh, the things they do with the listener sponsors' money.

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