Not too late for KBOO democracy
Change at KBOO has always been participatory; we can keep it that way with dedicated, respectful struggle.
Here's the latest at KBOO:
The KBOO Board has called a Special KBOO membership meeting, for Saturday, May 4th, 1pm, at Tabor Space, 5441 SE Belmont (@ 55th) to reveal the "streamlined KBOO" plan.
KBOO has always taken pride in being a participatory and transparent institution. So, for example, when there was a desire, in recent years, to re-examine programming, a careful and lengthy survey was undertaken. Volunteers and members were consulted, and some changes were made.
WHY THE SECRECY?
I am writing to reveal a different, top-down process that is now being implemented, with the best of intentions, by a few Board members and their new Station Manager. These changes, to be revealed at the May 4th 2013 member forum, are apparently so drastic, that it was first necessary to secretly arrange to fire all KBOO Staff! The process was to have been completed BEFORE the May 4th meeting--a fait accompli.
KBOO has generally been careful, when personnel changes were necessary, respecting the right of workers. So it was a shock when the Board and Station Manager produced a document this March, stating that employees worked "at will" and thus could be fired at any time without cause. Sensing that drastic and unfavorable changes were coming to their workplace, KBOO Staff organized. They presented their proposed CWA Local Union 7901 to the Station Manager (Lyn Fitch) during this April's Membership Drive. They kept the action quiet, so that the Drive would be unaffected. They asked Ms. Fitch for a timely response. KBOO Staff were looking forward to continuing their enthusiastic and dedicated service--as Union members.
KBOO: UNION BUSTER
Ms. Fitch responded by meeting with union-busters Paychex/HR Solutions. To date, at least one check has been written on KBOO funds, for two thousand dollars--for lawyers-- just to prevent the very thing that KBOO Public Affairs programmers have so long championed: dignity and democracy in the workplace! The CWA Union representative has pointed out that, at the last Board meeting, Directors repeatedly called for actions that would violate the Labor Relations Act of 1935 and related statutes.
SQUANDERING MEMBER DONATIONS
Is this how we want KBOO member funds spent? Why in the world would KBOO, of all institutions in the world, want to fight unions? (And will this trend towards corporate-style top-down management end with Staff relations, or is democracy at KBOO to be generally curtailed?) The attorney expenses are just getting started--and imagine the expense and confusion when, inevitably, KBOO Staff are "reinstated at their previous positions with full back pay," as the LRA demands.
WHAT HAS BEEN TRICKLING DOWN HERE?
Ironically, it is cash flow that is being presented as the driving force behind this corporatization push. Yet the Winter Membership Drive was cancelled, citing the $200,000 in reserves at KBOO as of the November 2012 Finance Committee report. That drive cancellation meant the loss of $50 to $70 thousand in revenue. The corporatization group says that "we can't keep milking that cow." Yet that is the very basis for community radio's continued flourishing in the midst of crushing unemployment and recession: we get out money directly from members, in small contributions, and that cash-flow paradigm keeps KBOO healthy and honest. The recent Membership Drive came up $10K or $15K short, and that is being pointed to as well--but the substantial bequest that was offered KBOO was effectively turned down by the Station Manager (others arranged to keep it coming in). What is going on? What are the true motivations here?
WE WANT OUR FUTURE BACK
In fact, KBOO had a bright future before these changes were pushed through. We had lost some audience for morning public affairs to KPOJ, which was wiped out by its won top-down corporate management; that audience is returning. Our substantial public affairs and journalism strength continue to draw audience, even in the Internet age. If we need to spend funds, it should be on expansion of our Internet and smartphone presence, not on crushing workers. The last thing this radio market needs is an NPR/OPB junior wannabe.
THANKS--BUT NO THANKS
Whereas I respect the desire to find new and better ways to manage our station, we feel that it is inappropriate and disastrous to attempt to apply common capitalist business practices to our unique and (up til now) democratic institution. KBOO does not "compete with the business community" in staffing practices--KBOO was formed to do what its members want, not what the business community expects. Our Staff proudly work long hours for minimal wages; they are a terrific "bargain" in labor output. Now they are faced with a demoralizing workplace that looks at them as little better than a nuisance and a drain. Is that how we want things to be at KBOO?
IT IS NOT TOO LATE
We, as members, are not left without recourse. Some are considering a possible Special General Membership meeting, which would have the power to rescind the terrifically expensive anti-union push, and restore transparency and participation to KBOO.
KBOO Programming Charter:
"KBOO shall be a model of programming, filling needs that other media do not, providing programming to diverse communities and unserved or underserved groups. KBOO shall provide access and training to those communities.
KBOO's news and public affairs programming shall place an emphasis on providing a forum for unpopular, controversial, or neglected perspectives on important local, national, and international issues, reflecting KBOO's values of peace, justice, democracy, human rights, multiculturalism, environmentalism, freedom of expression, and social change.
KBOO's arts, cultural, and music programming shall cover a wide spectrum of expression from traditional to experimental, and reflect the diverse cultures KBOO serves.
KBOO shall strive for spontaneity and programming excellence, both in content and technique."
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