Apr 1, 2012

Labor dispute, financial losses at Pacifica prompt director's plea for truce

Pacifica Radio's listener support is down almost 25 percent since 2006, and stations KPFA, WBAI and WPFW "have been running seriously in the red" for several years, according to Arlene Engelhardt, executive director of the Pacifica Foundation, in a column on Radio Survivor. Pacifica "as a whole" lost $5.5 million from 2007 to 2010, she said.

Those three years would have included the financial contraction that came with the 2008 financial crisis and recession, when cash-strapped stations turned to the network for aid.

"Stations have met their payrolls by not paying their share of network-wide expenses (Central Services) — for Democracy Now!, the Pacifica Radio Archives, our insurance, our auditors, etc.," Engelhardt writes. "Stations have also used the national office as a 'bank' to advance sums for their expenses — health premiums, legal expenses, pension fund contributions, etc. As a result, Pacifica national is carrying almost $3.4 million in accounts receivable from the stations, and $1.3 million in debts to outside creditors. This cannot continue."

The column, focusing on serious, ongoing labor relations problems at KPFA, is in response to media writer Matthew Lasar's recent Radio Survivor piece on Pacifica's hiring of law firm Jackson Lewis to handle the issues, which, he noted, Pacifica union stewards see as "a declaration of war on the unions that represent Pacifica workers.”

Editor's note: This post has been revised to clarify Engelhardt's statement about Pacifica's financial losses.