Public Comment

New: Vote ‘United for Community Radio’for the KPFA Local Station Board

By Akio Tanaka [KPFA LSB Member 2006-2012]
Wednesday November 14, 2012 - 08:04:00 PM

Current situation and background 

As long time observers know, there never seems to be peace at KPFA-Pacifica. 

After the 1999 Crisis, Pacifica reorganized with new bylaws which called for democratic governance by a board elected by the listeners and staff, both paid and unpaid. Immediately, a divide formed over the new governance. The current conflict is a continuation of this divide. 

The current conflict began with the layoffs in 2010, when the union accused Pacifica management of union busting and usurping local control. While it is the duty of the union to fight to save jobs, anyone who has seen KPFA’s annual audited financial reports can see that KPFA’s local management more than doubled the payroll during the boom years between 2000 and 2006, and then failed to make the necessary cuts when the economy collapsed and listener support plummeted between 2006 and 2010. The number of staff the station can afford to pay is directly tied to the level of listener support which in large part depends on the state of the economy. By 2010, the station was in danger of insolvency, which is the reason Pacifica stepped in. 

There have also been claims that the layoffs were political and did not follow the union contract, but the National Labor Relations Board has dismissed as ‘without merit’ all the complaints filed by the union regarding this matter. 

Underlying problems 

One major area of friction is programming. It stands to reason that a trade union looking after the financial security of its members will prefer programming which appeals to a more affluent, if progressive, audience. But the mission of Pacifica is to be the commons of the airwaves, to represent a broader and more diverse community, to include the voices of the voiceless and marginalized. 

Another area of friction is the working relationship between paid and unpaid staff. Until 1996 both were represented by one “industrial” union. In 1996 this was changed to a “craft” union that no longer represented the unpaid staff. This created a kind of a class system resulting in an uneasy working relationship between the paid and unpaid staff. 

Possible Solutions 

So what to do with these conflicting needs and interests? How does a union look after the financial security of its members in a non-profit organization that does not make profits and must live within a balanced budget? 

The primary task of the station should be to fulfill the mission of Pacifica. The management and union should carefully work out a paid staffing level that can be sustained during the economic ups and downs and avoid the temptation to add too many people during the economic boom times, as happened between 2000-2006. 

A stable paid staffing level would help remove the one main source of anxiety and tension. It would also end the practice of measuring the value of a program only by the amount of money it brings in, a sad and ironic state of affairs. 

Pacifica holds the unique position of giving a platform to the powerless and voiceless, as the union did at one time. While the notion of workers’ rights resonates to all within the progressive community, it must be remembered that it is to respect and honor ALL labor, not just paid labor. 

It is important to note that KPFA relies on a large number of unpaid staff; 75% of the programming is done by the unpaid staff. At KPFA there simply is not enough money to pay all those who contribute to the station. 

A progressive organization like KPFA should have one all inclusive union for everyone who works at the station. 

Bringing Peace to KPFA and Pacifica  

It is time for all the staff, paid and unpaid, and for listeners to embrace the democratic victory that was won for us in legal and street battles of 1999-2001 and by the people who formed the original “Save KPFA” in the mid-1990’s. KPFA was not sold out from under us, and thanks to their efforts, it never will be. It is time to bring peace to KPFA and Pacifica and help strengthen this priceless resource. 


‘United for Community Radio’ (UCR) coalition stands for: 

Community Resource - Reclaim the mission of Pacifica and KPFA as commons, with broad and diverse participation, not to be controlled by any particular group or party. 

Program Council - Programming decisions to be made in fair, collaborative, and respectful manner. 

Mutual Respect – Foster cooperation and equality for paid and unpaid staff. 


Please vote for the following ‘United for Community Radio’ candidates: 

Ramsés Téon Nichols - Organizing Committee Chair of Local SEIU Local 1021, SF Green Party 

Dr. Laurence Shoup – Historian, Author “Rulers and Rebels”, former Green Party candidate 

Karen Pickett - Earth First!, Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters, Global Justice Ecology Project 

Andrea Pritchett - Incumbent board member, teacher, Copwatch founder 

Samsarah Morgan - Oakland Green Party, Occupy Oakland, writer on birth, health and family 

Dave Welsh - Labor organizer, delegate SF Labor Council, Haiti Action Committee, Occupy Oakland 

Oriana Saportas - Community & Labor activist, former KPFA Local Election Supervisor 

Kate Tanaka - Incumbent board member, anti-corporate stalwart 

Beth Seligman - Vegetarian occupier, permaculturist, writer, law degree 

Virginia Browning - Long time KPFA activist, former radio programmer 

[Staff candidates: David Landau, Frank Sterling, Joy Moore] 


UCR is endorsed by Carol Spooner, Gray Brechin, Michael Parente, Barbara Lubin, Peter Phillips, Jack Heyman, Clarence Thomas[ILWU], Robbie Osman and many more. 

See all the endorsers and our platform at