On the Road Today

dismantling myths about the budgets & layoffs

Beginning with a letter, this is a series of updates from Tracy Rosenberg about budget cuts, layoffs and other realities at KPFA in the autumn of 2010.

a letter from Tracy Rosenberg
October 15, 2010

Hi everyone,

I'm on the road today, so am requesting some assistance forwarding this to wherever people think it should go or be posted. I want to be clear that this is just a letter from myself to you and reflects only my own experiences. ICR will eventually make its own vetted and signed-off statement and that is not what this is.

Firstly, thank you for returning me to the board and as the 2nd place finisher overall out of 27. I am honored by the trust you have placed in me, especially with such disturbing rhetoric flying around in a circus-like atmosphere.

On September 20th, I reported the unsuccessful outcome of 15 hours of budgetary meetings to my colleagues on the Pacifica National Board. I reported that a balanced budget had not been achieved. I am grateful to Ms. Englehardt that she listened to the concerns and initiated conversations about them with the national directors from the KPFA unit, one of whom Andrea Turner of Concerned Listeners, declined the invitation.

On September 22nd, I listened to and participated in a brainstorming session. At that session, this is what I did. I listened to KPFA's interim management present a plan to deal with the budget deficit. That plan was to remove Flashpoints from the 5pm evening slot and replace it with a syndicated news program from an external source. To remove Hard Knock radio from the 4pm evening slot and replace it with a syndicated Baltimore NPR program hosted by Michael Dyson. I listened to a plan to implement staff cuts in these positions in the seniority chart (1 being the highest seniority): #9, #10, #13, #14, #15, #18, #20 and #26. And then I was sworn to confidentiality, accompanied by a rather loud table thump to emphasize the point.

I do not come to meetings unprepared. I had reviewed the CWA Local 9415 contract. I had reviewed the staff seniority chart. I had thought about the structural problems that might result from implementing the contract as written, namely that seniority must prevail. A more intelligible, ethical, reasonable and labor positive conversation would have looked more like this: #36, #34, #32, #31, # 29, #28, #27, #25, #24 and #23 (with a few skips mostly linked to shop steward status, core operational functions and in one case, the non-viability of replacement by a more senior individual).

And presto – there's your political hit list.

A few notes for the record:

*There is no misdirected email. The contents of the meeting were not emailed.

*Speaking for myself, I was aware that confidentiality was likely to be abused. I cannot in good conscience put a campaign for a seat on the board ahead of my duties as a director of the foundation to treat its assets in a responsible manner. I maintained confidentiality after the breach because I had given my word and because human beings are not political footballs to have their impending terminations broadcast at 59,000 wats.

*News and information on our radio station has been subordinated to a job self-preservation campaign featuring the hostile profiling of PNB members engaged in their fiduciary duties . The radio is not to be used to incite opposition to financial planning. That is not what it is for.

*One of KPFA's shop stewards who stopped by the PNB meeting in New York City where the board of directors unanimously supported the Pacifica executive director in implementing seniority-based layoffs to bring expenses into line with revenue at the Berkeley unit, was told PNB members would be happy to meet with staff on their return. No request has been made with 24 hours notice or when I, myself, was not physically on an airplane at the time.

*The Local 9415 of the CWA (a union whose national office I have cordial relations with and have worked with some in opposition to the Comcast/NBC merger) is acting in an irresponsible manner. Siding with management to advocate for unfair reductions that violate the basic seniority provisions in their own contract and endorsing slates in board elections is the kind of behavior that gives unions a bad name.

Lets remember the context. We have lost a million dollars in 24 months. We are out of money. In the last month, KPFA borrowed money from the Houston station to make its payroll, had its long distance telephone service cut off and its online archives collapse.

KPFA in 2009-2010 looks to have the largest deficit and the largest payroll in the network. It is a failing unit.

KPFK in Los Angeles has a bigger signal area, is not posting massive deficits, and does it with about 24 FTE. KPFA is currently at 30.51 and after “decimation” as it was so hysterically described, would also be at approximately 24 FTE.

Enough is enough.

With apologies for missing tomorrow's board meeting as I have to be in Reno for a plenary panel at the Alliance for Community Media Conference. I'm on their board as well although it is not quite as time-consuming as this one:)


Tracy Rosenberg
Director, Pacifica Foundation

*** *** ***
*** *** ***

ICR statement on budget cuts at KPFA
October 17, 2010

Independents for Community Radio (ICR) Position on the KPFA Budget and Staff Cuts

*Why Budget Cuts?*

It's not surprising that the prospect of budget cuts and staff layoffs has evoked deep concern, even anger, among KPFA employees and listeners, but we can't let emotions and heated rhetoric obscure the fundamental facts of the situation. The station must reduce its staff headcount for one sad but simple reason: /there is no money to continue paying all current employees/, there are no reserves to cover the shortfall, and there's no possibility of making it up by cutting other expenses.

KPFA is in this situation because for several years it has spent more money than it raised. In fiscal year 2010, which just ended, the station had revenues of $3.49 million, but expenses of $4.01 million, leaving a net loss of more than half a million dollars. The year before, in fiscal 2009, the net loss was even larger. The budgets approved by the Local Station Board and the Pacifica National Board for these years called for reducing expenses to trim these losses, but KPFA management largely ignored these mandates and made only minimal cuts. As of Sept. 1, 2010, our station had the largest payroll and the largest deficit in the Pacifica network.

The station was able to survive only by drawing down its financial reserves, then by suspending the payments all Pacifica stations owe to the national Pacifica Foundation for Democracy Now and other central services, and, most recently, by borrowing from the Pacifica station in Houston to cover the September payroll.

These options are no longer available. The reserves, which exceeded $1 million just a few years ago, have all been spent. The Pacifica Foundation can't survive if KPFA doesn't pay its dues (including its deficit from last year). And the other Pacifica stations have neither the money nor the motivation to subsidize our profligate spending.

So balancing the budget is not a matter of choice. And because salaries and benefits constitute the majority of the budget, and most of the other expenses are fixed costs that can't be cut, the only way to balance budget is to reduce the paid staff. And unfortunately, because expenses are so far out of line with revenues, the cuts have to be pretty drastic.

*The alleged "purge plot"*

In the final days of the just-concluded LSB election, several KPFA hosts associated with the former Concerned Listeners group, now calling themselves SaveKPFA, took to the air with dramatic charges that three members of the LSB who also serve on the Pacifica National Board - a thinly veiled reference to – Tracy Rosenberg, Joe Wanzala, and Shahram Aghamir – were plotting to use the budget crisis as a cover for a purge of their political opponents on the station staff. Here's what /really/ happened:

KPFA's fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. Management is supposed to draft a budget and present it to the LSB for approval in August at the latest. But as of mid-September of this year, despite the critical financial situation, KPFA's interim management had not produced even a draft of a budget. At that point, Pacifica's Executive Director, Arlene Engelhardt, stepped in to move the process forward. She invited management, the station's PNB reps (including both ICR and SaveKPFA members), and others to a series of meetings to discuss ways the budget could be balanced.

At these meetings, which for obvious reasons were supposed to be confidential, a wide variety of options were tossed around; inevitably, they included discussion of which staff members would have to be laid off and how these cuts would effect programming. The PNB members from the ICR (SaveKPFA's Andrea Turner didn't attend) noted that under the labor contract between KPFA and the union that represents paid staff (Communications Workers of America, Local 9415), seniority is supposed to be the primary criterion, after taking account of differences in skills and job performance, when layoffs are required.

In other words, the "secret meetings" were actually convened by Pacifica's ED, in fulfillment of her duties, and the supposed "hit list" was really the union seniority chart.

The upshot of the meeting was that the ED reaffirmed that KPFA's FY2011 budget must be balanced, and that in order to achieve that goal, salaries and related expenses have to be cut to a total of $1.75 million, down from $2.3 million in FY2010. Details about exactly who will be cut have not been announced, but after hearing from the ED about her plans in executive session on Oct. 3, the Pacifica National Board /unanimously/ (i.e., with support from all factions) adopted the following resolution: "The PNB fully supports the Pacifica Executive Director in the difficult task of balancing the KPFA budget utilizing the staff cuts recommended by the executive director in accordance with principles she has enunciated, of respect for seniority, recognition of skill sets and maintaining the programming grid to the extent possible."

October 17, 2010

*** *** ***
*** *** ***

Thu, 4 Nov 2010


Since Media Alliance has historically sent out "what's up with KPFA" press releases, I have gone ahead and sent out the enclosed - attached and below on behalf of Media Alliance (and I hope its members). I did my best to express what I feel is the truth is the situation and to also express as many of the points of view I heard yesterday as possible. Please feel free to forward or use in any way you like if you find the document helpful. I hope so.

Best to all of you,


Thanks to Adrienne, Renee G and the apprentices, and Joe for permission to quote them.

November 4, 2010

For Immediate Release

Contact: Tracy Rosenberg

KPFA Turmoil: Some Employees Picket Proposed Layoffs After Million Dollar Loss

Berkeley-At noon today, a handful of employees at Pacifica Radio's Berkeley unit, KPFA-FM, the oldest community radio station in the country, have announced a picket of their parent 501(c)-3 organization, the Pacifica Foundation, which owns 5 educational radio licenses around the country and provides programming to 150 smaller affiliate stations. The informational picket claims the foundation, whose Berkeley unit posted losses of half a million dollars in each of the last two fiscal years, is "unnecessarily" laying off 6-8 employees in response to a revenue decline of more than 20% since 2006.

Joe Wanzala, the vice chair of the Pacifica Foundation Board of Directors said in response to the planned picket, "I understand the upset. Job losses have been terrible, and nowhere more than in the media and journalism fields. But you can't pay people with money you don't have. It's important for the distribution of a wide range of news, information and discourse for Pacifica to prioritize sustainability to get through this difficult economy intact".

The picket effort claims that an economization plan developed by some of the employees would save enough money to prevent the layoffs of 6-8 people. But the plan, touted as a "sustainable budget" addresses less than half of the previous year operating deficit and relies on some questionable tactics, including defaulting on programming fees for the independent program Democracy Now!, shifting some employees from the company medical plan to Medicare Advantage, shifting others to Calworks state subsidies, and forfeiting on obligations to repay borrowed assets. KPFA had to borrow funds from Pacifica station KPFT in Houston, Texas to make payroll in mid-September and came up short in its last on-air fund drive in October of a $750,000 goal.

The community radio station, founded in 1949 by WWII draft resister and pacifist radical Lew Hill, has a current headcount of 38 CWA-affiliated employees who share program and administrative tasks with 150 unpaid volunteer workers - called unpaid staff in the station's lexicon. In the past few years, the unpaid work force has struggled with station derecognition and then rerecognition of their unpaid staff organization, marked by the highly-publicized incident when police were called to the pacifist station to remove 10-year volunteer Nadra Foster in August of 2008. Foster was physically restrained, arrested and charged with trespassing - charges that were dropped earlier this year by the City of Berkeley.

Unpaid staff member and producer of the disability rights show Pushing Limits Adrienne Lauby commented "I'm sad people, some of them my friends, will lose their jobs. That said, these changes are overdue".

The picketing workers have been quick to take to the radio station's airwaves to press their case, tagging members of the Foundation's national board and its executive staff with the label of "unionbusters" and aggressively interviewing new Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt (who came to Pacifica from Tampa community station WMNF) on the Morning Show, often shouting over her responses to questions. Engelhardt, who was raised in a union-affiliated family that was active in local labor organizing, was charged by the national board in October to conduct layoffs, if they proved to be necessary to regain financial stability, in full accordance with the current union contract, which calls for seniority-based principals to be invoked.

One of KPFA's most active departments is its venerable apprenticeship training program, which has been mentoring women and communities of color in creating radio that expresses underrepresented points of view. In a statement to be released today, co-directors and CWA members Renee Geesler and Micki Mayzes said on behalf of the program "We are not here to defend any one person's job. We demand the equitable allocation of resources. This does not mean perpetuating back-door deals, but a systematic approach to mentoring, accountability and collaboration".

After the 1999 movement ended with listener and staff representation on Pacifica's local and national boards, a transformation proposal was cobbled together with a host of community organizations including Media Alliance and its then board chair Van Jones. The proposal called for outreach to young people and liberation struggles and led to the development of Hard Knock Radio. Other transformational changes called for in the document have largely laid fallow through this decade, which has been marked by political struggle between a professionalization-oriented contingent called Concerned Listeners/Save KPFA which has advocated for more outreach to the political center and a more community-based movement Independents for Community Radio (and the earlier People's Radio) which has advocated for Pacifica's historical role as a cradle for radical discourse, and a more open process for program decision making that incorporates community and volunteer voices.

*** *** ***
*** *** ***

November 8, 2010

For Immediate Release

Contact: Tracy Rosenberg

On-Air Drama at KPFA-FM After Executive Director Acts on Two Year Financial Collapse

Berkeley-After a slow motion buildup for several months, The Pacifica Foundation, the Berkeley-based 501(c)-3 not-for-profit organization that holds the licenses for five educational radio stations across the country and provides content for 150 affiliated stations, has finally moved to stanch financial bleeding at the network's Berkeley unit KPFA-FM by laying off 7-8 employees after posting a million dollar loss over the past two years.

Once the envy of community radio stations everywhere with a fat million dollar reserve in the bank, KPFA fell into hard times the past few years, emptying its bank account down to zero, getting $250,000 into debt to it's parent foundation, missing goals in 9 of the past 11 on-air fund raising marathons and unable to meet it's September 15th, 2010 payroll without borrowing money from the Houston Pacifica station KPFT.

The lead up to the layoffs that were announced yesterday featured a campaign of on-air complaints by workers who stood in lower positions on the station's CWA seniority list, who have been advocating for an alternative budget they hoped would save $250,000 and their jobs.

But the “kpfa-worker” budget addressed only a portion of the station's growing tide of red ink, and was rejected by the 501c-3's management and board as unrealistic.(*Media Alliance's ED Tracy Rosenberg is one of the 22 members of the 501(c)-3 foundation's board of directors).

Ms Rosenberg comments: “No one likes layoffs. If there was another way, the board would have grabbed it. But we were looking at close to half a million dollars in shortfalls. Again. After 2 years of trying everything else. “

Former board treasurer Brian Edwards-Tiekert, who found out yesterday he was to be one of the individuals laid off, stated in an e-mail yesterday “I repeatedly reported out to KPFA's LSB (local station board) that KPFA was bleeding money because it hadn't made it's cuts”.

The 2009-2010 KPFA operating budget that Edwards-Tiekert helped to prepare and submitted to the board projected revenues of 4.1 million for the period October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010. The station actually made 3.5 million, a shortfall of $600,000.

The Berkeley radio station increased its CWA-affiliated workforce by more than 40% in the last seven years, a rate of growth that did not prove to be sustainable for listener-sponsored KPFA after the economic collapse that began in October of 2008.

Due to recent hires, the most heavily impacted units at KPFA include the AM show and the evening news program.

*** *** ***
*** *** ***

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

a reality check- the truth about the KPFA layoffs

KPFA has a CWA contract that requires layoffs for financial exigency, which is what you would have to call a million dollar loss over the last 24 months, to be performed on the basis of seniority. It's not an option and the reasons are not particularly unclear.

Some people were hired later than other people. It is terribly sad and in the interests of progressive news and information, you'd like to hire 100 people, not lay off 7 or 8. But it is not possible at this time.

KPFA will continue to have a Morning Show, of course, but it will be hosted and produced by different people other than the ones that have been doing it.


1. The current KPFA headcount of 38-staff is not affordable.

2. Borrowing money from radio station KPFT to meet KPFA's September payroll is not affordable.

3. Carrying over tens of thousands of bills in a month as KPFA did in September is not affordable.

4. Not paying Democracy Now, Free Speech Radio News and other vendors is unacceptable.

4. Keeping the station going by spending $780,000 in reserve funds until there is nothing left in the bank is unacceptable.

5. Asking the umbrella (501c3) organization [aka The Pacifica Foundation] to extend $250,000 in credit to KPFA, since April of 2010, is unacceptable.

6. KPFA can't live an illusion.

7. The answer is to make the best radio possible with an annual payroll of 1.7 million dollars in salaries and benefits. It can be done as was the reality 7 years ago.

8. KPFA's staff ballooned in 2003, after the run up to the first Iraq invasion, when KPFA received an unprecedented amount of listener donations. But these donations tapered off over the next years and KPFA's donations keep going down and down and the listener members kept decreasing.

9. KPFA now has only about 22,000 listener-members and has been running at a deficit since 2008.

by Tracy Rosenberg [with minor edits from Chandra]

Also, please note that all the other Pacifica stations made staff budget cuts in 2008, as mandated by the Pacifica National Board, in order to enable them to have balanced budgets.

Under the leadership of the Concerned Listeners (Brian Edwards Tiekert was KPFA's treasurer, Lemlem Rijio then General Manager his ally and his allies also were the majority faction of the Local Station Board) KPFA did not have balanced budgets for the past 4 years, i.e. we have been spending more than we are bringing in. This is what is truly NOT SUSTAINABLE.

*** *** ***
*** *** ***

Click here to view 10 Years of KPFA Finances – from audited financial statements in TABLE FORMAT

and, presented as a GRAPH, the same data:
10 Years of KPFA Finances GRAPH

for more information and updates please visit Support KPFA at www.supportkpfa.org