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Indybay Feature
The Attack On WBAI & "Pacifica Across America”
by Labor Video Project
Tuesday Oct 8th, 2019 9:11 PM
The Pacifica Interim Executive Director illegally shutdown WBAI and terminated all the employees violating the AFTRA-SAG contract. It was also done without a vote of the Pacifica Board and a new entity "Pacifica Across America" took over programming while local programmers were locked out.
On Monday, October 7, 2019, without any notice to the staff and in violation of the AFTRA-SAG contract all staff and management were terminated.

This was done by the interim executive director of the Pacifica without a vote of the Pacifica National Board.

Also all local programming was taken over by "Pacifica Across America" without any vote of the Pacifica National Board.

This interview is of the chair and vice-chair of the WBAI Local Station Board and the manager.

Additional media:
The Crisis in Pacifica and KPFA "What Is Going On At Pacifica"?

Crisis At KPFA/Pacifica Network, Democracy & A National Alternative Multi-Media Network-Discussion

Production of Labor Video Project

Pacifica Board Faction & IED Violate Union Contract

From: Becky Hayes
Sent: Monday, October 7, 2019 5:52 PM

SAG-AFTRA demands to bargain over the effects of WBAI and Pacifica’s decisions to cease assigning work to SAG-AFTRA members employed at WBAI, effectively laying them off as of today’s date. We request to meet at the earliest availability.

In addition, in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement, SAG-AFTRA demands immediate payment of the following for all covered bargaining unit members:

-Four (4) weeks’ notice pay under Article XVI(A)(4)

-Severance of one day of pay per month of service (up to a max of 125 days) under Article XVI(A)(5)

-Payout all accrued and unused time, including, but not limited to, vacation, comp time, etc.

-Payment of any and all other monies owing to each SAG-AFTRA member in connection with his or her employment.

We would also like to highlight other applicable sections of the contract including Article XVI(A)(7) which provide that the Company “shall recall all employees on layoff within the previous eighteen months” “before hiring new employees” to perform the work covered by the collective bargaining agreement.

The demands above are on behalf of any and all covered employees, including, but not limited to, Michael Haskins, Reggie Johnson, Max Schmidt, Shawn Rhodes, Leonard Lopate, Jesse Lent, Ilana Levinson, Juliana Forlano, Graceon Challenger, Barry Brooks, Andrea Katz, and Ian Foster.

Additionally, we believe the Company has already violated Article XVI(A)(1) by failing to inform the Union at least four weeks in advance before the layoff took place, thereby depriving us of the opportunity to “economic alternatives to the proposed layoffs,” of any nature.

Finally, please see the attached information request, made in connection with the above demands.


Becky Hayes

Becky Hayes

Broadcast Manager and Labor Counsel


One Lincoln Plaza

1900 Broadway, 5th Floor

New York, NY 10023

Layoffs and Canceled Shows at WBAI-FM, a New York Radio Original

ImageA vintage poster advertising WBAI-FM in 1977.
A vintage poster advertising WBAI-FM in 1977.CreditCreditBlank Archives/Getty Images
By Ben Sisario
Oct. 7, 2019

For decades, WBAI-FM has remained a proudly scrappy alternative in New York’s radio market, a bastion of left-wing political commentary and community voices rarely heard elsewhere on the dial.
That identity was cast into doubt on Monday when the station’s owner, the nonprofit Pacifica Foundation, abruptly laid off most of WBAI’s staff and replaced its local programming with shows drawn from Pacifica’s four other stations.
Ten of WBAI’s 12 employees were laid off, according to John Vernile, Pacifica’s interim executive director.
Employees and volunteer hosts at the station said they were blindsided by Pacifica’s decision. “We are in disbelief,” said Alexander J. Urbelis, a host of “Off the Hook,” a weekly show about computer hacking. “Nobody was given any notice of this or any opportunity to be heard.”

Berthold Reimers, WBAI’s general manager, told producers in an email on Monday morning: “There is a show on the air now that I do not recognize. This means your shows are no longer on WBAI.” Mr. Reimers declined to comment.
Pacifica leaders said that the decision to shut down WBAI’s operations in New York had been in the works for months, and that it was an essential step to save the larger foundation from ruin.
In an interview, Mr. Vernile said WBAI — which, like the network’s other stations, is listener supported — had fallen short of its fund-raising goals in recent years. He added that the station was unable to make payroll and other expenses, forcing the larger Pacifica Foundation network to bail it out.
“Listeners in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and Washington, D.C., have been supporting the efforts in New York,” Mr. Vernile said. “It has gotten to a point where we can no longer do that.”
WBAI’s ratings are minimal, but its shows can have an impact. On Monday, Letitia James, the attorney general of New York, wrote on Twitter: “This is deeply disappointing and I hope this station is relaunched.”

WBAI and Pacifica had been under strain for years. Pacifica has not released any financial statements since 2017, when its auditor cited doubts that the organization could continue as a going concern.
The foundation faced possible bankruptcy after a New York State court ordered it in 2017 to pay $1.8 million in rent and other fees to a trust affiliated with the Empire State Building, where WBAI transmitted its signal.
Last year, Pacifica settled with the trust after obtaining a loan from FJC, a nonprofit lender. Mr. Vernile said Pacifica had been meeting its obligations under the loan agreement. Sam Marks, the chief executive of FJC, declined to comment.
WBAI, founded in 1960, was a leader in the free-form radio movement, and has had a history of extraordinary moments in broadcasting. Bob Dylan made early appearances on the station, and in the 1970s WBAI was cited by the Federal Communications Commission for indecency for running George Carlin’s routine on seven “filthy words,” a decision upheld by the Supreme Court.
As WBAI’s audience has dwindled, its finances have grown shaky. In 2013, after nearly a decade of losses, the station laid off 19 employees. At times, it has seemed crippled by factionalism, as board meetings descended into name-calling and bickering over parliamentary rules.
The station’s most valuable asset may be its license to operate a coveted spot on the dial, at 99.5 FM, but Mr. Vernile said Pacifica was determined not to sell that prime piece of radio real estate. Pacifica, he said, wants to “rebuild” WBAI at some point, although he did not offer a clear target date.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” he said, “but this puts us in a place where we have a shot at bringing everything back in full.”

New York-based WBAI radio abruptly shuts down
By Richard MorganOctober 7, 2019 | 1:56pm | Updated
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WBAI FM 99.5, a listener-supported radio station in New York City that has been on the air since 1955, abruptly announced on Monday it is shutting down.

The station’s California-based nonprofit parent, Pacifica Foundation, blamed “ongoing and continued projections of further financial losses” for the abrupt shuttering of WBAI.

“We realize this news will come as a deep and painful shock, but we can no longer jeopardize the survival of the entire network,” said Pacifica, which also owns radio stations in Berkeley, Houston, Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

Recent local programming has included “Democracy Now!” with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, as well as regular broadcasts by Leonard Lopate, who got a second chance at WBAI after he was fired from WNYC over allegations of inappropriate behavior with staffers.

The news surprised public relations executive Jeff Simmons, a volunteer host of two weekly WBAI shows.

Simmons said in a phone interview that he had just listened to the 6-to-7 a.m. Monday replay of his Sunday evening program before learning that WBAI’s employees had been fired.


“The note from the general manager came in about 9:40,” Simmons said. That’s when local programming ceased, he said, and “national programming got plugged in.”

In the ’60s and ’70s, the station had been a platform for the counterculture, broadcasting everything from Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” to George Carlin’s “Filthy Words.”

More recently, it hit financial turbulence, laying off nearly two-thirds of its staff in August 2013. In November of that year, musicians including Pete Seeger staged a benefit concert for WBAI at the Cutting Room.

Enlarge ImagePete Seeger performs at a WBAI benefit concert at The Cutting Room in New York CIty in November 2013.
Pete Seeger performs at a WBAI benefit concert in November 2013.Redferns
In March 2014, after falling $1.8 million behind on rent in the Empire State Building, the station received an emergency loan to prevent the building’s holding company from seizing its assets. It then relocated to 4 Times Square.

Pacifica said Monday it would relaunch WBAI once it’s able to create “a sustainable financial structure for the station.” Until then, it said WBAI’s signal would carry “a network source called Pacifica Across America.”

The station still had about a half-dozen core staffers along with several paid and volunteer hosts, according to Simmons.

Station manager Berthold Reimers and program director Linda Perry Barr were among WBAI staffers dismissed on Monday.
§WBAI Door Was Locked Without Notice To Workers & Programmers
by Labor Video Project Tuesday Oct 8th, 2019 9:11 PM
A faction of the Pacific National Board and their interim executive terminated all employees including paid union staff and unpaid programmers.
§WBAI Free Speech Radio
by Labor Video Project Tuesday Oct 8th, 2019 9:11 PM
Free Speech Radio has disappeared at WBAI until an injunction was issued ordering the Pacifica interim executive director to re-open the station.
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Supreme Court Of New York Stops Pacifica's Attack On WBAIrepostTuesday Oct 8th, 2019 11:59 PM
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