Listeners have started a petition to bring back the KPFA Morning Show, to be delivered to Pacifica Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt. Engelhardt took the program off the air last week–which is KPFA’s most popular show and biggest fund raiser–and laid off Aimee Allison, Brian Edwards-Tiekert, and Esther Manilla, citing a need to balance the station’s budget. The cuts violated KPFA’s contract with its union employees, and workers are afraid the move will send the station’s finances into a downward spiral, leading to more job cuts. Already, in response to the deluge of emails and calls from angry listeners, management has canceled the station’s November fund drive.
KPFA’s workers had come up with a Sustainable Budget that would have cut bureaucracy, rather than programming, and was supported by local KPFA management and the KPFA Local Station Board. Pacifica’s National Board and Engelhardt flatly refused to accept any of the alternatives in the Sustainable Budget. Had they adopted just one recommendation from that budget–spreading out repayment of KPFA’s debt to Pacifica over three years–there would have been no need for involuntary layoffs at KPFA.
Communications Workers of America 9415, the union representing KPFA’s paid staff has filed several charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Pacifica management. CWA has also criticized Pacifica for its disregard for the union. Christina Huggins, Executive Vice President of CWA 9415, wrote to Engelhardt: “We have had many problems with Pacifica in the past, but no other Executive Director of Pacifica has refused to return the legal Union representative’s phone calls.”