by MIMI ROSENBERG 2/27/01
On February 5, 2001, Interim General Manager Utrice C. Leid terminated my 32-year tenure as a producer at WBAI. For the last fifteen years I have co-produced Building Bridges: Your Community and Labor Report, the longest running, currently nationally-distributed program, covering the working class, from an anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic perspective. More recently, I produced In Brief a half hour segment on Wakeup Call covering issues of law and social justice. With my termination, the voice of an engaged journalist who sought to mobilize and empower workers disappears from the WBAI air waves and station. I did not just engage in programming but helped unionize WBAI and fought for paid and unpaid staff to remain in the collective bargaining unit. I serve as elected unpaid staff representative to the Local Advisory Board (LAB). Most recently, the LAB helped locate our current space, raised $200,000 and has been a counter force to the Pacifica Foundation National Board (National Board) for years. My legal skills have always been at the service of station personnel.
My removal from the air was attributed to my alleged actions on the morning of December 23, following the "Christmas Coup" in which Utrice Leid was summarily appointed Interim General Manager and my colleagues Bernard White and Sharan Harper were fired and Janis K. Bryant, Cerene Roberts, Eileen Sutton, Ursula Ruedenberg and Rachael Barr were soon to be banned from WBAI.
In her letter of termination, Utrice Leid falsely accuses me of threatening her with physical violence. Such allegations of misconduct are entirely unfounded. I did express to her in the strongest terms my view that her collaboration with the National Board representatives was politically unprincipled and reprehensible. I told her how distressed I am over the dismissal of workers who helped build WBAI but now were deprived of their livelihoods and threatened with arrest if they dared to enter the station. Then in the face of Utrice Leid's intransigence to my entreaties to provide access to the station I uttered a profanity, albeit not the word "bitch" of which I am accused. Profanity at WBAI is used too often to punctuate sentiment. In my case, it was used to justify my demonization and my punishment.
The real reason I, like other progressive Pacifica workers, have been harassed, and now silenced is political. The political conflicts within Pacifica mirror the political contradictions within public broadcasting and the nation as a whole. For several years I have worked to resist the subversion of Pacifica's historic mission and in support of the quest for the development and implementation of democratic governance procedures. This has included co- authoring Pacifica's Crisis: Underlying Causes And Prescriptions For Renewal, referred to as "The Blue Paper", opposing the lockout at KPFA and criticizing the policies and makeup of the National Board majority.
My more than three decades of work at Pacifica
is a function of our political commitment to the struggle for social justice
and freedom of expression, for an end to racism and war. The cause
of Pacifica's current crisis is the capture of the National Board by neo-liberals
opposed to any radical agenda or truly participatory and emancipatory media.
The former Executive Director, and now unpaid consultant to the National
Board, Mary Francis Berry embodies the terrible compromise of the Democratic
Leadership Council. John Murdock, the head of the National Board's
governance committee and Senior Staff Associate of Epstein, Becker and
Green, represents the anti-labor orientation of corporate law firms.
Ken Ford, Vice Chair of the National Board, represents the power
of lobbyist money over the needs of people. Utrice Leid and her allies
at WBAI are willing tools of this neo- liberal politic, and cannot
abide its critics. The Pacifica National Board and its allies must
be removed from office.
In my termination letter, Utrice Leid writes that I must cease all my "on-air and on-site volunteer work at or for WBAI or Pacifica generally" and may not "enter or attempt to enter WBAI's premises or participate in any WBAI activities." Those removed from WBAI will not be silenced. If you demand that the firings be rescinded, that on air voices be restored and all the bans be lifted, we will prevail over our censors. If you demand that the Pacifica National Board and its allies be removed we will prevail over our censors. Then we can begin to democratize our governance structures and strengthen our wonderful broadcast medium, WBAI radio.
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