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Cuts to KPFA's Flashpoints Spark Outrage
by Henry Norr
Thursday Dec 24th, 2009 2:38 PM
The KPFA management has ignored the union contract and is implementing cuts aimed at those shows they want to shut down.
Cuts to KPFA's Flashpoints Spark Outrage

By HENRY NORR

In the face of mounting deficits, KPFA this month began laying off staff. The cuts come as no surprise; in fact, they're overdue, considering that the station has been running in the red for several years, in defiance of Local Station Board and Pacifica National Board mandates to bring expenses into line with income. Anger and protest were probably inevitable when the cuts finally came. But by implementing them in an abrupt and seemingly insensitive way, ignoring provisions of the paid staff's union contract, and loading what looks like a disproportionate share of the pain on one program - Flashpoints - management has succeeded in turning a tough situation into yet another full-fledged crisis for the station.

The first victim of this new cutback campaign was Eric Klein, Flashpoints' technical producer and engineer, whose half-time position was eliminated with no advance notice on December 7; Dennis Bernstein, the show's host, wasn't informed until he went looking for Klein an hour before airtime. After co-host Nora Barrows-Friedman e-mailed station manager Lemlem Rijio seeking an explanation and making the case that the show requires a technical producer, Rijio invited her to "share her concerns" in person. When they met on December 9, Barrows-Friedman argued (according to an account she posted on Facebook) that it was "unreasonable" to expect her to absorb Klein's work on top of her other responsibilities, whereupon Rijio "casually" informed her that her hours were being cut in half, from 40 to 20 per week, effective immediately.

Then, a few days later, Robert Knight, a New York-based journalist who delivers a short news analysis ("The Knight Report") at the top of the Flashpoints hour most days, received a letter by FedEx informing him that his contract would expire on December 28.

Knight is not a member of the union that represents KPFA's paid staff, Communications Workers of America Local 9415, but Klein and Barrows-Friedman are. According to the union's contract, should staff cuts become necessary, layoffs are generally supposed to be based on seniority. Klein didn't rank high on the seniority list, but Barrows-Friedman has worked at the station considerably longer than other staffers whose hours have not been reduced. The contract also specifies that "Those who will be laid off shall be notified as soon as possible, normally thirty (30) working days, but in no case less that fifteen (15) working days before such layoff is to take place," yet neither Klein nor Barrows-Friedman got so much as a day's notice - even though management has had literally years of advance warning about its budget problems.

Treating employees this way may be par for the course in the corporate world nowadays (see the new George Clooney movie "Up in the Air"), but even aside from contractual requirements, I think most KPFA subscribers expect better of their station.

To Flashpoints' staff and fans (including me), the recent moves raise a larger issue: has management singled the program out for particularly severe cutbacks? When, after six days of silence, Rijio finally offered an explanation of the cuts in an e-mail message to subscribers and a recorded message now played incessantly on the air, she claimed that "Each department at the station – Programming, Operations, Development, and Administration – is being cut by 20 percent" and "All public affairs programs are being cut across the board and reductions have been made to bring each show's cost into line with its income."

So far, Rijio has not responded to requests for details from listeners and members of the station board. But information gleaned from staffers and data provided to the board when it considered the station's budget last summer cast serious doubt on her claim of even-handedness. Certainly other public-affairs shows have also suffered cuts, but typically in the range of 14-18 percent, measured in paid staff hours.

In the case of Flashpoints, however, with the elimination of Klein's job, the reduction in Barrows-Friedman's hours, and the cancellation of Knight's contract, staffing has been slashed more than 40 percent, from approximately 135 hours a week to 80 per week. (Bernstein works full-time, while "roving producer" Miguel Gavilan Molina and now Barrows-Friedman are each paid for 20 hours per week. Another full-time position was eliminated two years ago.) To the surviving staff, the cuts amount to a deliberate attempt to destroy the show. "There is no way we can survive at this [reduced] level," Barrows-Friedman wrote on her Facebook page.

That prospect has sparked deep concern among Flashpoint's intensely loyal listeners, who value the show for its outspoken radicalism - so different from the NPR-like tone of pseudo-objectivity maintained on most of KPFA's news and public-affairs programming - and its focus on reporting the grassroots realities in hard-pressed communities rarely heard from in most of our media - Palestine above all (including Barrows-Friedman's moving reports from her frequent trips to Gaza and the West Bank), but also Haiti, New Orleans, immigrant and native American communities, and recently Honduras.

As word of the cutbacks spread, protest flared. Professors Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff of Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation (which just weeks ago gave the Flashpoints crew its lifetime achievement award) published a denunciation of the cuts, complete with supporting statements from such left luminaries as Barbara Lubin and Richard Becker. Arab-American community organizer Eyad Kishawi publicly threatened to organize a boycott of the station. Michael Parenti issued a call to a demonstration in front of the station last Thursday.

And other prominent radical intellectuals who have appeared on the show - including Howard Zinn, Dahr Jamail, Anthony Arnove, and Richard Falk - signed an open letter declaring that they will "refuse to be interviewed or to allow prior work to be aired, or to give permission for our books, CDs, DVDs and other work to be used as premiums during KPFA’s fund drives" until Barrows-Friedman is reinstated to a full-time position and Flashpoints provided with a technical producer."

So far, there's no indication that management will back down from its plans, but Flashpoints' staff and supporters seem determined not to go without a fight.

To express support for Flashpoints, write to general manager Lemlem Rijio at gm [at] kpfa.org and turn out for the first meeting of the new LSB, now set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 11, 2010 (disregard dates announced earlier) at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th St. (near Telegraph), Oakland.


Henry Norr was recently re-elected to KPFA's Local Station Board


Comments  (Hide Comments)

Lets get real, flashpoints during crisis is obviously going to happen. It anything, more workers there ought to be added as the crisis deepens. We all konw that lobour power is the source of the worlds victories and that instead of cutting our feet to suit our shoes, the correct policy is to plan more useful policies and social programs to end the crisis that monopoly captialism is deliberately foisting on the working classes at this time. It is their system that causes crisis and unemployment to enrich themselves on the peoples labour instead making a four hour work day the way to keep all workers employed and no loss in a livable income. Four hour work day returns to the working classes the wealth and technology that their intelligence has supplied to the develepwoment of the means of production. The lousy right wing seeks to promote longer hours and shorter pay to uphold the illegal empires drive for maximum profits for the elite minority rich. Viva socialist liberation. End pollution war, not endless pollution wars for the elite rich.
by Richard Phelps, former Chair KPFA LSB
Friday Dec 25th, 2009 5:47 PM
Over the past few years the Concerned Listener (CL) Management Group, formally the KPFAForward Management Group (same group, different electoral slate name) has increased the staff from 28 full time equivalents to 42, a 50% increase. During that time the number of subscribers decreased by 20-25%. Many of us advised that there needed to be cut backs and they kept hiring their friends and allies.

During that time they destroyed or weakened the democratic centers of power at the station in an attempt to consolidate their total control of the station. They eliminated the Program Council, and refused to recognize the Unpaid Staff Organization (UPSO). They manipulated the elections to keep their allies in the majority on the LSB so it could not fulfill its duties and hold the management accountable to the Mission, the Bylaws and the listeners, and it functioned as a rubber stamp. To that end they reduced the LSB meetings to once every other month from once a month to make sure not only that little would be done and also that little would even be brought up for discussion. All other Pacifica station's LSBs meet monthly or more when needed.

All this time they tried to rally the staff to support their patronage and cronyism practices. Several parts of the staff refused to go along and FlashPoints was one group to say no. They got on the CL Management Group's enemies list. FlashPoints staff was cut and its staff members harassed. A picture of Norah's child was defaced in their office. Toast was put in their mail box. Miguel Molina was aggressively confronted in the parking lot by one of their large allies and when Miguel encouraged listeners to attend a peace rally by saying "be there" he received a warning letter from management.

When confronted by myself and others about free speech issues management said the letter to Miguel wasn't a "write up" but that it was against FCC rules to do "calls to action" on the radio. My research showed that the only prohibition against "calls to action" in the FCC rules was to forbid non-profit stations from encouraging listeners to support commercial businesses or events. After a month long battle where they claimed that they were only worried about being sued, I was joined by Pacifica's FCC attorney and Dan Siegel supporting my position that there was no liability for encouraging someone to go to a first amendment event. I have been a lawyer specializing in liability issues for 28 years. It wasn't a tough issues. They just tried to make it one. The interesting irony here is that some of management's supporters actually do occasionally violate the "calls to action" rule and get no heat from management like Miguel received! Big surprise? Selective prosecution is a main staple of patronage and cronyism regimes.

Retaliation was used against the one Women's Program at KPFA. When they didn't support the management's politics and chose to have a mind of their own, they were taken off the air for several months for another temporary program. At that time I pointed out to management and everyone that there were 40+ music programs each week and only one Women's Program. Yet they took the only Women's Program off the air.

So now that the chickens have come home to roost, the CL Management Group wants to use the economic problems that they contributed to, as a cover for getting rid of their enemies on the staff, with FlashPoints as their main target. Who needs to go is the current management. A station with a progressive Mission must have a truly progressive management. Cornel West from his book "Democracy Matters", page 28, speaking about our national leadership:

"Our leadership elite may still want to believe in democratic principle--they certainly profess that they do--but in practice they have shown themselves all to willing to violate those principles in order to gain or retain power."

I believe that description is a perfect fit for the CL Management Group.

In the last two LSB elections the CL management group has lost the staff elections to opponents 2-1 and in the last LSB election they have lost the majority on the LSB. In January 2009 they lost their collusive control of the PNB, see the article about the "Pacifica Financial Crisis" http://peoplesradio.net/'09_2issues.htm for background on that.

So now they are desperate to maintain their power and control and are using what little power they have left to attack those that haven't supported their patronage and cronyism regime. They have even stooped to switching some people from management to staff to help use seniority to protect their loyalists.

We must not let them destroy FlashPoints on their way out. Speak out and let management know that retaliation will not be tolerated! Come to the LSB meeting on January 11, 2010 at Humanists Hall in Oakland at 390 27th Street, 7 p.m. between Telegraph and Broadway and demand that they stop the retaliation. There is always Public Comment near the beginning of the meeting.

Richard Phelps, 35 year Listener/subscriber and former Chair of the KPFA LSB

by Brian S
Friday Dec 25th, 2009 9:27 PM
In the face of mounting deficits, KPFA this month began laying off staff. The cuts come as no surprise; in fact, they're overdue, considering that the station has been running in the red for several years, in defiance of Local Station Board and Pacifica National Board mandates to bring expenses into line with income. Anger and protest were probably inevitable when the cuts finally came. But by implementing them in an abrupt and seemingly insensitive way, ignoring provisions of the paid staff's union contract...

next time the KPFA station board reviews candidates for GM, it could screen for better communication skills and sensitivity. it could as well look for these in its long-outstanding (seven years) assignment to find PD candidates. but the last union contract i've seen expired 30 september 2009. if pacifica didn't sign an extension with the union, is the contract relevant? is it possible delaying the cuts until the contract expired was part of a strategy to increase flexibility for KPFA management? ...after six days of silence, Rijio finally offered an explanation of the cuts in an e-mail message to subscribers and a recorded message now played incessantly on the air, she claimed that "Each department at the station – Programming, Operations, Development, and Administration – is being cut by 20 percent" and "All public affairs programs are being cut across the board and reductions have been made to bring each show's cost into line with its income."

assuming KPFA and CWA 9415 extended the contract, management could cut across the board with respect to programs, but the contract requires layoffs in order of seniority. to the extent a worker of greater seniority is qualified to do the job of a worker of lesser seniority (albeit for a different program, suffering smaller cuts), the contract requires that KPFA offer the senior worker the option of working on a different program. ...Arab-American community organizer Eyad Kishawi publicly threatened to organize a boycott of the station. Michael Parenti issued a call to a demonstration in front of the station last Thursday.

And other prominent radical intellectuals who have appeared on the show - including Howard Zinn, Dahr Jamail, Anthony Arnove, and Richard Falk - signed an open letter declaring that they will "refuse to be interviewed or to allow prior work to be aired, or to give permission for our books, CDs, DVDs and other work to be used as premiums during KPFA’s fund drives" until Barrows-Friedman is reinstated to a full-time position and Flashpoints provided with a technical producer."

now KPFA is annoyed that those whom it presumed loyal to the station are actually only loyal to a program on the station. this only reinforces the view that pacifica has become an institution of propaganda rather than education. why should it matter which program airs important ideas, unless to support the slant of a particular program?

by !
Saturday Dec 26th, 2009 3:50 PM
Ms. Lemlem Rijio is clearly a bought and paid for mouthpiece of the reactionary "Concerned Listener" gang who must be fired IMMEDIATELY if KPFA is to be saved. The only reason for drastic cuts with no notice to an anti-Zionist program like Flashpoints is because the viciously reactionary Zionists who are integral to the Democratic Party have pressured Ms. Rijio to eliminate Flashpoints. Flashpoints, Hard Knock Radio (ghetto youth program) and Guns & Butter (exposes 9/11 Inside Job) are all being hit by cutbacks and all are far to the Left of the "Concerned Listener" gang. If KPFA is to survive in this labor era, it must also have more labor and socialist viewpoint programs, and at election time, more interviews with Peace & Freedom and Green Party candidates. The Democrat-Republican parties have the capitalist press to promote their warmongering, fascist agenda; they do not need KPFA and we do not want them. This new LSB must not only restore Nora's full 40 hours and restore the Technical Producer, but also IMMEDIATELY FIRE LEMLEM RIJIO.
by Brian
Monday Dec 28th, 2009 10:16 AM
...Flashpoints, Hard Knock Radio (ghetto youth program) and Guns & Butter (exposes 9/11 Inside Job) are all being hit by cutbacks...

now how could KPFA hit G & B with cutbacks, unless to its airtime?

by angela davidson
Tuesday Dec 29th, 2009 1:45 PM
And other prominent radical intellectuals who have appeared on the show - including Howard Zinn, Dahr Jamail, Anthony Arnove, and Richard Falk - signed an open letter declaring that they will "refuse to be interviewed or to allow prior work to be aired, or to give permission for our books, CDs, DVDs and other work to be used as premiums during KPFA’s fund drives" until Barrows-Friedman is reinstated to a full-time position and Flashpoints provided with a technical producer."

Thank goodness these loony fucking progressive assholes won't be on there anymore.

Now how about some polka music, that is more listenable than the stupid lefty bullshit.
by maggie kaigler
Friday Jan 1st, 2010 11:55 AM
Environmental Justice Reporter and KPFA Treasurer Brian Edwards-Teikert reported this December from Copenhagen. Is this trip a KPFA expenditure, using precious grant money? If so it flies in the face of protestations to the contrary, as evidenced by the quote below:

"The National Finance Committee began reviewing individual station budgets in August. Presenting the plan for KPFA, Brian Edwards-Tiekert, a staff member who also sits on the local board, called it a “break even budget” from which travel and most consultant costs had been eliminated. About $125,000 in staff reductions (about two and a half positions) were also being proposed, but “we may not be conservative enough.” The reason, he said, is that “fund drive revenue plateaued a year ago and is going down.”
From an article by Greg Guma in Maverick Radio

Think about it, because if they lie they will cheat and if they cheat they will steal...
by roknich
( roknich [at] electromagnet.us ) Wednesday Jan 13th, 2010 9:25 PM
this is the same kind of crap we saw immediately before the election of Bush 2 -
Clearly the hatchet man has backing from those who have monied their way in to the Board of Directors to silence what could be a potent voice against the Audacity of Bush3.

This is an omen of worse times to come.

Keep the fires burning.
by John Smith
Friday Jan 15th, 2010 5:11 PM
It's unbelievable how this people, the so called "flashpoints team," are able to manipulate some on the well intended KPFA listeners. The pattern Dennis Bernstein has been following over the years to attack other workers (management included), just because they refuse to be manipulated and being used for Mr. Bernstein politics inside the first public radio station in the country is totally insane. The suffering and abuse Mr. Bernstein has caused to so many people over the years is more than extraordinary. He has constantly abused many of the women and people of color who have worked for Flashpoints. The overload of work on technicians who have had the bad luck to end up working for these vicious group is more than clear to anybody at the station. One of his more recent victims is Eric Klein, whom they now pretend they are defending Mr. Klein is filling grievances with the union representing the KPFA staff on a case of abuse and mistreatment he says has been very well documented. The corruption, manipulation, lies and nepotism, not to mention the mafia style threats by his slave Miguel Gavilan Molina, to whoever does not agree to go along with them, have to be stopped in order to keep a reasonable safe work place at KPFA. The radio station has spent so much money on lawyers, lawsuits, and medical expenses of the people he has abused, that now run into the hundreds of thousands of money the station needs to keep going. The amount of hours Nora Barrows, Miguel Gavilan Molina and Mr. Bernstein himself work to put together the 5 hours a week radio show is not justified by the salary the get for it. Why Mr. Bernstein, Mrs. Barrow and Mr. Molina don't run the board themselves while speaking on the microphone like anybody else does, including the volunteer programmers? Why they require a technician to make the telephone connections the need for the show? Why they don't edit their own prerecorded interviews?
Please, lets stop this madness of patterns of lies and manipulation for the good of our beloved radio station.