Back in the winter when it was announced that WBAI would be moving from Wall Street to City College, there was widespread speculation that the Pacifica station was once again encountering financial difficulties.
Some of the problems at the station are far more apparent with the recent circulation of a petition from WBAI employees citing eight demands, including an end to the practice of non-payment or delays in issuing paychecks and Pacifica’s extremely costly contract with or association with the notorious union busting law firm Jackson Lewis.
In the petition, the employees said, “We refuse to remain silent about the stewardship of a public trust and the continual violations of our collective bargaining agreement. We believe that we have a responsibility to safeguard and preserve WBAI for the community we represent.”
Safeguarding and preserving WBAI may be problematic if Pacifica proceeds with its plans to lay off more than 20 staffers as early as July 15. Staffers recently received the layoff threat in certified letters from Summer Reese, executive director of Pacifica Foundation, which holds WBAI’s FCC license to broadcast. Program hosts, clerical workers and engineers were informed that the layoffs were imminent and necessary for economic reasons.
Even so, many of the employees believe a more ominous plan is afoot to close the station down. According to Jose Santiago, news director and a shop steward at WBAI, negotiations between Pacifica and the worker’s union, SAG/AFTRA, will take place on July 1 and 2 in New York. “We hope the talks are really about exploring ways to improve the station’s finances and not just Pacifica going through the motions before kicking us to the street,” he said in an email. “Our dedicated workers and the communities we serve deserve better than that.”
It’s challenging enough to operate an array of solid programing with a full staff and dedicated volunteers, so any reduction of workers will certainly hamper the station’s usually effective on-air presence. Most regular listeners are aware of the many changes that have occurred over the last decade or so, and the carousel of general managers and program directors and the related lawsuits have only exacerbated the problems at the station. One wonders how the contributions from supporters are being used. The worse scenario is that some of it is being funneled off to the union-busting law firm.
The paid staff at WBAI is asking listeners and supporters to let Pacifica know how they feel about the prospect of layoffs by contacting Pacifica Executive Director Summer Reese at firstname.lastname@example.org, the Pacifica National Board at email@example.com and/or WBAI General Manager Berthold Reimers at firstname.lastname@example.org.