As part of a national day of action in support of unions, over a hundred KPFA paid and unpaid workers, union members, and listeners picketed the offices of the station’s parent organization Pacifica in Berkeley. Chanting “hey hey, ho ho, Engelhardt has got to go,” the picketers–including workers from ILWU, SEIU, NUHW, UPTE, CWA, and other unions–protested the actions of Pacifica’s executive director Arlene Engelhardt, who has spearheaded a campaign against KPFA’s union, Communications Workers of America Local 9415, and has repeatedly violated the station’s union contract, including laying off the hosts of the popular Morning Show. Engelhardt has hired a corporate management law firm, Folger Levin, to take on KPFA’s workers–at the rate of $400 an hour–and to date has spent over $30,000 on the firm, which KPFA’s listeners are being billed for.
News anchor John Hamilton spoke at the picket to the applause of the crowd. Hamilton was next on Engelhardt’s chopping block for a lay off. His job was saved, however, with an
act of solidarity by his coworkers who donated their hours to keep him employed. His yearly salary adds up to less than what the station has paid for three months of the services of Folger Levin. Hamilton talked about the need to bring back the KPFA Morning Show, the financial bedrock of the station, and all its laid off workers.
Micky Mayzes, director of the KPFA First Voice Apprenticeship Program, also addressed the picketers. She described how Pacifica was founded to raise money for KPFA, the original station in the Pacifica network. Yet now, she pointed out, KPFA and the other stations in the network pay “tribute” to Pacifica–to the tune of 20% of their incomes–while Pacifica raises little or no money for the stations.
Longtime Pacifica national affairs correspondent Larry Bensky joined the KPFA workers and listeners in picketing his former employer. He talked about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr, who was assassinated on April 4th while supporting striking union sanitation workers in Memphis, and the irony of Pacifica spending money to fight KPFA’s union workers, when they should be spending that money on programming marking Martin Luther King’s legacy.