Unpaid Staff Frustration

KPFA has long had an internal two-tier system with a small cadre of CWA-protected staff, many with considerable longevity and managerial status, and a larger cohort of volunteer unpaid staff who produce the about 2/3 of the programming on the at-will basis that is common in community-based media.

The station’s unpaid workers have long sought internal equity over working conditions and more input into decision-making including creating an ad-hoc unpaid proto-union called the Unpaid Staff Organization (UPSO) after the 1996 union bust of a joint paid/unpaid bargaining unit with the UE, and participating in a democratic program council experiment that ran from 2000 to 2007.

The pain of the two-tier system manifests most strongly in program changes when KPFA consistently upsets its unpaid worker contingent with abrupt unexplained program shifts with little to no warning and often pits long-established volunteer workers against syndicated content from other sources.

Unpaid workers have long asked for (and begged for) processes for meaningful performance evaluation, mentoring and assistance, grievance procedures, and policy for respectful program change. They have largely been denied all of it.

Recent program changes have included:

The loss of Sunday night modern classical music program Discreet Music and replacement with the commercial Motown Mondays dance party.

The loss of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s (FAIR) media criticism program Counterspin and replacement with a rerun of the Friday 10am edition of the KALW-FM program Your Call.

The loss of Guns and Butter and replacement with East Bay Yesterday, an independent podcast focused on local history, not national politics.

The rescheduling of Making Contact, a local public affairs podcast on Sunday nights over the Weekend News.

Long-time unpaid staffer Pedro Reyes conveyed some of the internal frustration in a statement regarding the Discreet Music change distributed on the unpaid staff internal list serv.


From: pedro
Date: Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 1:22 PM
Subject: [KPFA-Unpaid] Discreet Music taken off the air without reason or proper/timely notification

Hello everyone,

I felt the need to share this with you since you might not know. Last night Dean Suzuki did his final show due to management replacing the Discreet Music radio program with another. As a result, he does not know when he will be back on. He also mentioned that he was not notified of any changes and he went to talk to [program director] Kevin Cartwright. The first time Kevin told him his program would not be moved or taken off the air, and that whoever said that to him was straight out lying. Then this week, Kevin sent Dean an email saying he would not be on Sunday nights any more as of this weekend and that his show would be replaced. As a result, Dean’s last show was yesterday. When I came in, he was very sad to have to say good bye to an audience he served for almost 20 years. Even though he is a volunteer programmer and has volunteered his time, he got no timely request, and no reason behind why he was being taken off the air. 

I just wanted to make sure folks knew this was happening since we don’t get included in management’s dictatatorial decision making in a community radio station. Sad to say now when KPFA is a community radio station, but actions like this by management make it seem obvious that it’s a top down system, and they don’t value the community that helps them to stay afloat on the air. How is this progressive, and what is it going to take for management to understand the value of volunteer programmers? You might be next on the chopping block, and end up in the same situation. If we don’t take a stand, then who will? The local station board? The CWA?

LOL. They don’t care about volunteer programmers or they would have written a clause in their Roberts Rules of Order preventing management from overstepping their power and setting up a process for program changes by now after all the incidents we have had with these types of dictatorial program changes. I have witnessed personally that they don’t care, and most of them bend over backwards for management. I thought it was supposed to be the other way around, but as you can see ofr a long time and up until this day decisions are made behind close doors. This will affect us all one day or another, unless we demand change to top down exclusionary practices. In solidarity with Dean.


The 6 minute, 18 seconds clip below is taken from a December 2018 public access discussion of KPFA and Pacifica. Panelists discuss the recent cancellation of public affairs program Guns and Butter. In order the speakers are Sharon Adams, current board member and UIR candidate, Carole Travis, board chair in 2016 and 2017 and former Pacifica Foundation president Peter Franck. Franck reproaches the two board members for engaging with the subject of program censorship and removal on the basis of personal preferences rather than consistent organizational policy.

(As an editorial note, Rescue Pacifica’s position is program changes should be vetted via a community-inclusive process like a program council. As an additional note: it does appear to be a scientific position that there may be a large amount of water underneath the Earth’s crust. 


rescue-pacifica-logo-color-2-x-2-2-150x150 Unpaid Staff Frustration

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