Public Comment

Commentary: Sister Rautenstrauch and the Unpaid Staff Organization

By Steve Zeltzer
Thursday October 01, 2009 - 09:36:00 AM

As a candidate of Voices For Justice Radio who is running for the KPFA listeners candidate for the Local Station Board, I was surprised to see the letter by Sister Rautenstrauch about the struggle within the Unpaid Staff Organization. As a long time unpaid staff volunteer at the station it is surprising to hear her confusion about issues that took place in the unpaid staff organization by a so called  "small organization."  "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?". 

As a member of the unpaid staff at the time I and others were trying to get some transparency and accountability in the Unpaid Staff Organization. The representatives at that time including Bonnie Simmons and Mary Berg were in our view not representing the unpaid staff but the management and those entrenched programmers who wanted no new programming at the station. The action to dissolve the recognition of the UPSO took place over a year after these alleged "incidents". These same people who were supposed to represent the unpaid staff including Simmons and other met with management and conspired on how to eliminate the UPSO. We know this because one of the members of the KPFA Labor Collective was on the UPSO staff council and attended the meeting where these events were discussed. 

We also raised a resolution which was passed by UPSO and later passed by the Local Station Board that called for a safe environment for community programmers and the staff at the station. As Sister Rautenstrauch should know as a long time staffer, there is a history of violence and threats of violence against members of the staff by other members of the staff and management.  This atmosphere and the lack of checks and balances at the station as well as the lack of a personnel manual that would provide a process for resolving differences with due process and with fairness has been one of the very factors that continues to lead to these incidents. The failure of the present and past management to properly handle these issues has in fact led to physical assaults, verbal physical threats and in the latest incident which was  the calling of police to the station to arrest a Black community programmer Nadra Foster for trespassing. She was beaten and arrested. Maybe Sister Rautenstrauch thinks these are what to expect when one works at a local community station but I and many others disagree. The fact that we raised these issues in the UPSO was a very real reason that management was intent on eliminating the KPFA Labor Collective from even submitting programming proposals. This was supported by the way by a number of members and supporters of the Indy Media 2009 slate. The illegal ban was later overturned by the KPFA Local Station Board since it was not in the purview of the Program Council to take disciplinary action. 

The action of the present manager to dissolve the Unpaid Staff Organization which was supported by the Concerned Listeners who support the present management is another example of trying to shutdown the unpaid staff from having any representation or organized voice against a arbitrary and vindictive management. Although it was overturned by the Pacifica National Pacifica Board it shows an attitude hostile to the unpaid staff. It was also recently reported at a Local Station Board meeting by another supporter of the Concerned Listeners and paid staff representative to the Local Station Board Brian Edwards-Tiekert  that there would have to be an extra day of fundraising to pay for legal costs of these incidents. Is this what KPFA and Pacifica listeners have to put up with? Additional days of programming to pay for the failure of management to handle personnel issues properly? 

We believe that listeners and supporters of KPFA and Pacifica need a station that can cover the critical issues facing working people in the bay area, this country and the world without having to be at war with it's workers paid and unpaid. 

Steve Zeltzer