portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary oregon & cascadia

alternative media | labor

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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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?


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."



homepage: homepage: http://kboo.fm/presswatch

Something Has Gone Very Wrong Here 29.Apr.2013 00:55


The only thing to be done here is too get the members organized, get them at least one, but maybe better, two or three lawyers. The members may need to split into manageably sized circles, perhaps each with its own lawyer. Diversity is strength. A very good bookkeeper will also be needed. This emergency organization effort of the members should not be controlled or influenced by the Board, the officers and president, or the union. Just by the members. They need to get their lawyers yesterday! The members ordinarily will be most representative of the larger community.

This list of by-laws looks more like a Charter:

Is there an overriding Charter? The corporation is almost certainly founded in Oregon, but someone should check the articles of incorporation to be sure. "Occupy style" consensus approaches are not going to be useful in this situation. The member's lawyers will be interested in the regulations:

"Special meetings of the members of the corporation may be called by the Board of Directors or by written demand of at least five percent of the members signed, dated, and delivered to the Secretary and describing the purpose or purposes for which it is to be held."

"A Board member may be removed, with or without cause, by a vote of two-thirds of the members present at a special membership meeting called for that purpose."

"Inspection of Records by Members"

Apparently the Board has called a defective, therefor apparently toothless, meeting of the members. To do what? Convince them that everything is fine. Obviously everything is not fine.

Things that can go wrong for organizations:

1) An in-group decides to take over, because it feels that the other members are not competent. Most in-group people tend to come from upper-class backgrounds. They usually destroy everything.

2) The organization has valuable money and assets, which certain people would like to get their hands upon. If it is destroyed, its extremely valuable frequency channel may be bought up cheaply by someone with inside knowledge.

3) People who think they "know better" make catastrophic changes that destroy the organization.

4) Well endowed right wing organizations and agencies infiltrate and subvert the organization. This is extremely common. Check out what happened to WBAI FM in N.Y.C. about a decade ago.

It might be that some staff are paid more than workers in other parts of the economy that have been sinking into depression, and this might conceivably cause strife.

But there is one over-riding rule: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"!

And it might cost some money, but do get that independent member's lawyer(s), please! Your entire investment, in money, sweat, and tears, is clearly at stake here.

erratum 29.Apr.2013 01:03

theresa mitchell

I have been told that Spring Membership Drive came up more like $3,000 short. Hardly enough to sneeze at....

@Blue 29.Apr.2013 11:59

theresa mitchell

We do have lawyers among us in the now-organized resistance.

I just wrote to the Board President, asking him to consider setting a special Board meeting, which he can do (with a couple more Directors) to rescind the Station Manager's union-busting powers, embrace the union, and restore the employees' rights. There are a majority of Board Directors who, I think, could be persuaded to do this. It would certainly give a chance to restoring Staff morale, and allowing us to get on with the business of dancing our way to a new society.

Organizing Resistance or Rounding up the Cattle? 29.Apr.2013 15:54

If it quacks like a duck.. It's a duck

I think unionizing the staff would be a great idea and probably the only option left for KBOO to be able to get the bad staff out of the picture. With a union, the staff cannot run the station and the freedom to run KBOO in to the ground either through hostility or committees will be ended. The staff will have to start keeping time sheets for the union and can longer attack managers for proper record keeping. Maybe even having a time clock on the wall to punch. Many of the freedoms that the staff have enjoyed for decades, will soon be over. They will be employees of the Union and not 'guardians' of KBOO anymore. The union will be able to discredit those that need to be replaced. It will take longer, but will have the same result in the end.

There is no 'resistance', there is only vile mouthed, misinformed, half-truth telling dysfunctional misfits looking to create even more of a mess out of KBOO. The only Cause should be 'revitalizing KBOO' and not bankrupting it. There are also those that use their positions on staff or on the board to serve their personal relationships and not to serve the good of the station. So go ahead, organize, create a dysfunctional Resistance, take KBOO all the way down into the ground financially and lose her license this year while you're at it. You stay stuck on a winter membership drive, not caring if you state facts or fictions. You don't get the big picture. Membership drives will not feed us, membership continues to decline year after year because we are no longer valuable to the community. KBOO has to cut staff and staff perks or it needs to learn how to find a way to revive drives or find others ways to raise money. Beating up on those that are supposed to raise the money for KBOO is pretty smart! We can cut more jobs at KBOO now. You don't see the big picture because your sight is short and biased. Your information is incorrect and in some places, pure lies.

People, don't be cattle! Understand..... this is not about employees being treated unfairly. I wished someone would make public exactly what intangibles the KBOO staff are really getting off this poor non profit! You would be surprised. This IS ABOUT entrenched staffers and entrenched volunteers staking claim to a public entity, abusing the heck out it and fighting tooth & nail not to give it back to the public. Even if that fight puts KBOO out of business!

For those Occupiers.. you may want to keep a criminal defense attorney on retainer too. Just saying!

I Would Think About What's Happened Here 29.Apr.2013 19:27


There were enough incompetent people on the board of directors to have allowed this insanity to get to this point. The only board members who perhaps should remain are those who are very widely trusted (not just fast-talking hipsters), and who have been sounding the alarm about these pending disasters. You certainly do not want people of affluence, or who have parents with heavy connections. Nor people so socially deprived that they can't function effectively. I think you want rock-solid activists who you know and trust.

My suggestion is to get (if the by-laws are not superseded by a Charter or by the laws of the state in which the foundation was incorporated) the necessary percentage of members (really get twice or three times that many, as there will be challenges) to call a meeting of members to replace the entire board of directors (they DID let this happen). Also, you should probably replace the acting president and treasurer, etc. This will all have to be declared in the initial petitions for the meeting.

No need to trust the union. 2/3rds of them are mobbed up anyway. You are going to hear a whole lot of sweet-talking! Just REMEMBER it was the sweet-talkers that let this happen. People who screw everything up big-time are never truly humble.

Lawyers must be managed. Their primary directive is to "keep everything calm." This will not really be in your best interests. You ALL have to let them know that you mean business. The hipsters would not be attacking now if they did not have secret weapons.

not naming names but... 29.Apr.2013 23:22


i don't trust half the people posting here on the subject as they can be linked to some very creepy characters.

course they might have been tricked/lied to but still.....the plea for "democracy" sounds manipulative instead of informative.

There is a power in a union 30.Apr.2013 10:51


There is power in a factory, power in the LINE
Power in the hands of a worker
But it all amounts to nothing if together we don't stand
There is power in a Union

Now the lessons of the past were all learned with workers' blood
The mistakes of the bosses we must pay for
From the cities and the farmlands to trenches full of mud
War has always been the bosses' way, sir

The Union forever defending our rightsDown with the blackleg, all workers unite
With our brothers and our sisters from many far off lands
There is power in a Union

Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws can not defeat us
But who'll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackies out to cheat us?

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone?
What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child
There is power in a Union

The Union forever defending our rights
Down with the blackleg, all workers unite
With our brothers and our sisters together we will stand
There is power in a Union.


Question 30.Apr.2013 15:58


I am definitely in favor of unionization.

However, in looking over the staff listings, it seems as if most of the staff would probably qualify as "bosses," except for the administrative assistant and perhaps some of the coordinators. I had always understood that "bosses" or managers or directors could not unionize -- for example, the principals or vice principals of a school are not unionized, although teachers, custodians and counselors are.

Just wondering what "staff" is seeking unionization.

Thank you.

the "management" ploy failed 01.May.2013 02:22

theresa mitchell

KBOO Staff create news, aid youth, find local contributors, coordinate volunteers--but they're not "management," because only the management can direct, hire and fire. That's an ancient divide-and-conquer tactic by union busters: claim that half the proposed union is management. NLRB says no dice. Nice try.

savekboo.org 01.May.2013 11:19


savekboo.org is the new website for the Resistance. Keep KBOO as KBOO!

Union-busting letter sent to KBOO workers 03.May.2013 11:55

Theresa Mitchell

I have obtained a copy of a letter sent to KBOO workers. As many now know, KBOO workers organized last month, after the KBOO Board Of Directors launched a new top-down management paradigm at the radio station. Whereas KBOO has had managers in the past, the tone of relations with the Board and its hired manager has been one of cooperation, or at least, respect. Now KBOO workers have been stripped of sabbaticals, most of their compensatory time, most accrued sick pay, et cetera, and the new manager ("Station Navigator" Lynn Fitch) has attempted to fire all of them at once.

At a cost of thousands of dollars so far, Lynn Fitch has hired Bullard Law, a notorious union-busting firm. Here is the full text of the letter sent to KBOO workers. It gets really interesting in the sixth paragraph.

TO: All KBOO Employees
FROM: Lyn Fitch, Executive Director
DATE: April 26, 2013

As many of you are aware, CWA Local 7901 recently filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB"). The petition seeks to represent certain employees here at KBOO. The NLRB will supervise the election process in which our employees will decide if they want to be represented by the Union. We will be working with the NLRB to figure out issues about which employees will be included in the voting unit, when the election will be held, and those types of details.

We are currently reviewing the voting group described by the union in its petition to determine whether the group is appropriate and whether everyone in the group is eligible to vote in the election. If we can work these issues out with the NLRB, we will be able to schedule and election date without having a hearing. If we can't work out these issues with the NLRB, there will have to be a hearing so that a judge can decide which employees will be allowed to vote in the election. We'll let you know more as soon as we have more information about the details. [note: KBOO tried to designate the PM News staffer, the Volunteer Coordinator, and the Youth Coordinator--the most informed and militant members of the Staff--as "management," which would have excluded them from the election, and doubtless would have resulted in instant firing. KBOO failed and the election with all ten Union members is May 30th. --tm]

This will depend on whether we need a hearing. If we can agree on who should vote without a hearing, then the election will be held within the next six weeks or so. If we have to go to a hearing, then the election won't happen until we get a decision from the judge, which could take a month or two. [A lie--see above--tm]

Once the details are worked out, the question of whether the union will come here will be decided through a secret ballot election. The election will be held here by an NLRB agent. The election will be decided by a majority of those who actually vote on election-day. [previous sentence in bold--tm] That is why it is important for everyone who is eligible to actually cast a vote on election-day. Once it is decided who is eligible to vote, we'll let everyone know. [Note the patronizing tone--as if the NLRB and the Union would not reveal eligibility.]

UNION AUTHORIZATION CARDS [underlined in original text--tm]

Some of you may have signed petitions or authorization cards from the union. These cards are used only so the union can ask for an election. The fact that you may have signed a union authorization card does not mean that you have to vote for the union. The secret ballot you cast on election-day is totally separate from the authorization cards the union used to ask for the election. [last sentence bold--tm] How you vote on election-day is up to you, and no one will know how you vote.

GET THE FACTS! [underlined]

Whether CWA comes here to our workplace is a very important decision. It could radically change the nature of your employment relationship with KBOO.

We want to take this opportunity to remind all employees about KBOO's position on unions. KBOO has proudly and successfully carried out its responsibilities to our employees without the involvement of outside, third-party labor union representation--even while our programming and our values have historically supported social justice movements and workers [sic] rights. Throughout our history, KBOO has strived to uphold the following guiding principles: 1. fairness, honesty, and respectful treatment; 2. direct, frank, and open communication, and 3. good working conditions, wages, and benefits for all employees.

KBOO is dedicated to continuously enhancing our relationship with our employees. We respect your right to support or not support a union, but the KBOO Foundation does not agree that union representation is in the best interest of our employees or KBOO, at this critical point in our evolution. To help you make your decision, we want to make sure that you know both sides of what it means (and does not mean) to join a union, and that you will make an informed dicision about whether to sign a union authorization card or petition. [note the boilerplate here--authorization and petition is past. tm]

We'll be giving you a lot of important information in the next few weeks to make sure you can make an informed decision on election-day. All we ask is that you keep an open mind, and hear the full story of what it means (and does not mean) to have a union here before you make a decision on how to vote.

We encourage you to raise any questions you may have about the election or its potential outcomes with your supervisor, or with me. [there are ten union-eligible employees and one workplace--tm] We will do our best to provide you with the information you need as quickly as possible, within the strict legal guidelines of what we can and can't say during this election process. [end letter--tm]

Navigator? 04.May.2013 09:35


Thoughts on KBOOs Unionization 05.May.2013 20:41

a member

I have learned to recognize that special moment in the lifespan of a non-profit, where the Executive Director or Board spokesperson declares that "we have to start acting like a BUSINESS." Whenever you hear this, look out. You are about to see some very cold-hearted, non-businesslike behavior.

In this case the Station Navigator (my god, is that really her title?) floated an idea to lay off the entire staff and selectively hire back some of them as employees "at will". It concerns me that the Station Navigator would even float this as an option. Didn't this so-called "fair" restructuring plan almost guarantee that the staff would exercise their rights to unionize? Wouldn't the membership be outraged by this power play? And wouldn't the management of KBOO lose any credibility and moral high ground? So *this* is the wonderful, high powered advice from their management advisers and attorneys?

This heavy handed management style is not only outrageous but it is also definitely non-businesslike. For a non-profit organization, the "customers" are its community--its members or clients or constituency. Money flows to the organization either directly or non-directly by serving their community. The "product" which non-profits are "selling" is social justice.

The management of KBOO has alienated a large portion of its membership. How is this possibly a good thing for its "business"?

Oh yes, now the Station Navigator says that she "supports" unionization. Really? Isn't this support based on the fact that she has no legal ground to stand on to oppose the unionization? Even those who agree with her goals should wonder how well she is able to navigate KBOO.