KPFA’s paid and unpaid workers celebrated the decision by the Pacifica National Board (PNB), under pressure, to not renew the contracts of Pacifica Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt and Chief Financial Officer LaVarn Williams. Engelhardt subsequently sent a letter to KPFA’s union, Communications Workers of America Local 9415, retracting Pacifica’s statement of impending layoffs. The union had learned that Engelhardt planned to make up to $250,000 in cuts to KPFA, despite the fact that the station was on track to end the year with a six-figure budget surplus. KPFA’s union hailed both of these decisions as major victories, following a protracted campaign by staff and listeners.
The vote against the renewal of Engelhardt and Williams’ contracts came at the Pacifica National Board meeting in Berkeley in late July, where legions of listeners and paid and unpaid staff turned out to oppose the direction that the two executives were taking the network — including their plans to lay off workers who generate the income that keeps KPFA and Pacifica afloat. (You can find coverage of that PNB meeting, including audio clips and photos, at SaveKPFA.org and at Current.org.)
During her tenure, Engelhardt oversaw serious and damaging changes to KPFA, including the removal of the popular Morning Show. The PNB voted that she, as with Williams, would remain in her job until November 30th when her contract expires; presumably to protect the foundation against lawsuits from either manager.
However, in a surprise turn of events, the PNB voted this week to immediately replace Engelhardt with the chairperson of the highly factionalized national board, Summer Reese. According to Reese’s press release, she assumed the role of Interim Executive Director on August 17th. Reese appears to have the backing of Pacifica Treasurer Tracy Rosenberg, who has until now been a staunch ally of Engelhardt, and the architect of the removal of the Morning Show.
The PNB also voted to have yet another in-person meeting of the board in October or November, despite the perilous financial state of the network. “It is stupid and unnecessary to spend any more money on meetings,” said KPFA staff member Laura Prives, who sits on the Pacifica National Board, and was in the minority opposing another expensive gathering of the 22 member board.
Tracy Rosenberg stops recall
After more than a half-year delay by Pacifica of a listener-initiated recall of Tracy Rosenberg, Rosenberg has sued to bring the vote to a halt. Rosenberg claims that the recall is unfair because it has been delayed — despite the fact that her allies postponed the recall for months, buying her time to launch her own anti-recall campaign. Rosenberg submitted her lawsuit before the votes were counted, demanding that they not be tallied, which indicates that she believed she would lose. A hearing is set for September 10. Read more about the status of the recall here.
READ ABOUT KPFA’s workers — both paid and unpaid — and their history of union organizing here. You can also read several leaflets about the recent struggle to retain local control at KPFA.