Public Comment

Commentary: KPFA’s Unpaid Staff and the Elections

By Marcia Rautenstrauch
Thursday September 24, 2009 - 09:32:00 AM

As a longstanding member of the KPFA unpaid staff, I am quite a bit puzzled and more than a bit annoyed by how the unpaid staff are being used as an issue in the current KPFA Local Station Board elections. In fact, I’m down right aggravated to see how one slate, the Independents for Community Radio, is speaking in the name of us unpaid staff at the station. Well, let me tell you, they don’t speak for me. 

The Independents for Community Radio keep writing in the pages of the Planet about the needs of the KPFA unpaid staff, yet almost no staff has endorsed them. That’s probably because we all know better. I’d like to tell you a little something about UPSO, the Unpaid Staff Organization, which the ICR keep spinning tall tales about to appear as the heroes of the KPFA unpaid staff—including that UPSO has existed at the station for 30 years; now that’s a good one. UPSO does not represent me or most of the staff at the station. During my years at the station, they’ve never reached out to me at my place of work, never come to talk to me about my issues, and never signed me up as a member. Several years ago UPSO held an election in which just over 40 staff members (out of 250 or so) voted, and those who were elected now claim to represent us all. There haven’t been any minutes distributed from UPSO meetings for several years, so other than the very small number of people who seem to attend, no staff know what’s going on. They call meetings at KPFA, but they only give one or two days advance notice—and this they do for every meeting—which makes me think they don’t really want to hear from us.  

Several years back the station management derecognized UPSO after a small group within the station tried to take UPSO over and screamed and yelled abuse at anyone who would oppose them in meetings to the point that the organization fell apart. Earlier this year the station was instructed by the national board to recognize UPSO. But since then UPSO still hasn’t held an election (they haven't held one since April 2007) or reached out to unpaid staff like myself.  

In fact, the only thing concrete that I know that UPSO has done has been to try to keep certain unpaid staff like me and Denny Smithson off the voting rolls for the KPFA Local Station Board. I’m presuming this is because they didn’t know we worked at the station, but even that takes a stretch of the imagination—Denny Smithson has worked at KPFA for decades as any listener knows and is on the air every Monday on Cover to Cover. I’m also a bit puzzled why UPSO Council Member Anthony Fest, who is a candidate to the Local Station Board, seems to be involved in figuring out who  


Marcia Rautenstrauch is a member of KPFA’s unpaid staff. 



meets the criteria for being a voting staffer in the board elections. It all  

seems pretty fishy.  

I’m all for the unpaid staff at KPFA being represented by an organization that can speak for us, that has talked to us, organized us, called meetings with enough lead time so that interested people can attend, and held regular elections so that they stay accountable. That would be a good thing. But UPSO is not it and the Independents for Community Radio need to stop crudely using UPSO and the issues of the unpaid staff in this election. It’s just ugly politicking and KPFA doesn’t need any more of that. 



Marcia Rautenstrauch is a member of KPFA’s unpaid staff.