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Save Democracy Now! Updated Alert

Juan Gonzalez, Pacifica Campaign
August 21st, 2001

Please Note: This action has been discontinued.
Thank you for your support!

Please call AFTRA union executive director Greg Hessinger. The AFTRA national office telephone number is 212-532-0800. The fax number is 212-532-2242. Or e-mail him at: ghessing@aftra.com.

Tell him that Amy Goodman and the Democracy Now! staff should not be forced to report to a job site where they are physically attacked by supervisors and where staff members go on the air to urge their physical destruction.


News Update From Juan Gonzalez

Dear Pacifica Campaign Supporters:

The crisis with Pacifica's flagship national news show, Democracy Now!, has gotten worse. Pacifica management has now suspended Amy Goodman without pay. Incredibly, the Democracy Now! team found this out in the morning newspapers.

As you will remember, Amy and the Democracy Now! staff last Tuesday, August 14, decided to move production from Pacifica station WBAI in New York to an alternate studio in downtown Manhattan because they feared for their physical safety. At WBAI, they had been physically and verbally attacked by interim station manager Utrice Leid and other Leid loyalists. When Pacifica senior management ignored their repeated written requests that something be done about the intolerable atmosphere of intimidation and threats at the station, they felt they had no choice but to fashion some interim solution and find a safe and secure workplace.

But instead of taking steps to investigate the assault on Amy, and to ensure a violence- and harassment-free workplace, it is Amy and the Democracy Now! team that are now being disciplined by Pacifica Executive Director Bessie Wash.

For more than a week, Pacifica management has refused to broadcast live editions of Democracy Now! that Amy and her staff have been producing from Downtown Community Television (DCTV). This is despite the fact that other shows at WBAI are produced from alternate sites and fed to the station by ISDN line.

Despite Pacifica's claims that Amy had failed to report to work, KPFA in Berkeley continues to air the live broadcasts of DN!, as do several affiliates around the country who were able to get the feed via phone, web and ISDN. But on the other four Pacifica stations in New York, Washington, Houston and Los Angeles, listeners were denied the show they have grown accustomed to hearing each morning.

For several days last week, Amy and DN! staffers Kris Abrams, Brad Simpson and Anthony Sloan engaged in marathon negotiations with their AFTRA union representative and Pacifica lawyers to defuse the crisis. Before they would return to WBAI, the DN! staff insisted minimally on firm written guarantees and actions by Pacifica to assure their safety. They also asked for an investigation of the Leid assault, an end to their banishment to a second-class production studio at WBAI, and unrestricted access with their own keys to the DN! offices. Clearly, if a station manager is allowed to physically assault an employee, as Leid did before eyewitnesses, and to deny basic quality working conditions, without any censure from management, it provides a greenlight for intimidation and attacks to continue.

Quite predictably, on Saturday one of the most virulent and violence-prone producers on WBAI, Clayton Riley, launched into an on-air tirade of threats that were clearly directed at Amy and the current crisis. "When you talk about the enemy, you find the enemy, you isolate the enemy and you destroy the enemy," said Riley. "These people have put themselves in the position of being the enemies. This conflict is not going to end, in my judgment and let me be clear about that, until the dissidents, until the so-called exile community is destroyed. Unequivocally."

This echoes Station Manager Utrice Leid's own statements, some of which on NPR's Morning Edition of June 21st: "I need you stalwart soldiers out there ... This is a call to arms. I told you, it's a war." Leid said that some of those who she says were sabotaging the station are "right here with us." Listen to NPR's report.


AFTRA Sells Out to Pacifica Management

Unfortunately, the AFTRA union seemed at times to be in management's pocket. Rather than militantly fight for firm guarantees of physical safety for Amy, the AFTRA rep wanted the DN! staff to settle for a vaguely-worded policy statement from Pacifica reaffirming that the workplace should be free of threats. The same statement contained a so-called "management rights" clause that required all employees to obey any directives from management, except those that violated the union contract. Since the AFTRA contract has no sections dealing with on-the-job safety, that provision thus required Amy and her staff to follow any orders, even if they felt physically threatened. In addition, the union was willing to settle for a Pacifica promise to conduct an investigation of the alleged assault and to report back on the progress of the investigation by Sept. 10. In other words, no conclusion to the investigation was required at that time, only a report of "progress". How long does it take to investigate whether a supervisor physically attacked an employee? Aren't there numerous recently installed surveillance cameras at WBAI that probably captured the assault on tape? Aren't there several witnesses to the act?

As a veteran union representative with the Newspaper Guild, I must ask, why would a union rep cave in so easily to management?

Well, what is not widely known is that the WBAI paid staff, with the apparent blessing of Pacifica management, is seeking to decertify another union with a much more militant history of worker defense -- the United Electrical Workers, and to affiliate instead to AFTRA. AFTRA officials are reportedly even willing to waive their union's astronomically-high union initiation fees just to gain a foothold in WBAI.

Quite simply, it appears that AFTRA is selling out Amy and the staff at DN! and will soon be amply rewarded with many more new dues-paying members at WBAI.


Call AFTRA Today!

We urge you, especially those of you who are union members, to call AFTRA headquarters today and ask to speak to union president Greg Hessinger. The AFTRA national office telephone number is 212-532-0800. The fax number is 212-532-2242. Or e-mail him at: ghessing@aftra.com.

Tell him that Amy Goodman and the DN! staff should not be forced to report to a job site where they are physically attacked by supervisors and where staff members go on the air to urge their physical destruction. That is fascism, not democracy, and no union should collaborate with such policies.


The Fight Moves to the Courts and the Streets!

Plaintiffs in the various law suits against the Pacifica board have asked for an expedited hearing this Wednesday in Alameda County Superior Court over this latest attack on Democracy Now! As part of a court stipulation between the two sides, Pacifica cannot unilaterally make changes in national programming, including Democracy Now!, and the litigants are seeking an injunction. While we are hopeful that the judge will rule appropriately, we cannot place all our faith in the courts. Pacifica now has an even more expensive and politically-connected corporate law firm than it had before.

We urge you to keep up your phone calls and e-mails to Pacifica management demanding that Democracy Now! come back on the air. Thousands have spoken. We urge you to continue. Also organize protests in your listening area during the next few days and weeks against Pacifica management and the renegade board members who still refuse to restore democratic accountability and free speech to the network.

Already there has been a tremendous response from community stations nationwide. And endorsements for Democracy Now! have come far and wide, from activist Pam Africa to actor Danny Glover to the Journalists for Democratic Rights in Nigeria. And thanks for all your great e-mails to the Pacifica Campaign. We appreciate them and will try to respond as soon as we can.

A National Day of Solidarity is planned for this Tuesday, August 28. Hold a picket in front of your local Pacifica or affiliate station in support of the DN! team. Organize a radio program on the crisis. The Pacifica Campaign will be happy to come on to talk about the crisis. Also, please send a contribution to the Pacifica Campaign. Tax deductible contributions can be made to: Institute for Media Analysis-Pacifica Campaign. Our mailing address: Pacifica Campaign 51 MacDougal St., #80, New York, NY, 10012.

In the meantime, please be sure to contact AFTRA and make the phone calls, faxes or e-mails listed below.

In struggle,
Juan Gonzalez

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

What you Can Do!

Stop the Harassment of Democracy Now! Resign New!

Pick up the phone, organize demonstrations, notify all you come in contact with not to contribute to any Pacifica fundraisers, until democracy returns to the Pacifica network and the fired and the banned have been returned. Demand that the hijacker Pacifica National Board members resign now and the immediate resignations and dismissals of Bessie Wash and Utrice Leid.

Please call, fax, e-mail or mail the following individuals. Contact as many times possible until you feel that your voice has been heard. Your phone calls are important. Keep the message straightforward, no profanity, or name calling. Victory is certain, we will win.

Call AFTRA headquarters today and ask to speak to union president Greg Hessinger. The AFTRA national office telephone number is 212-532-0800. The fax number is 212-532-2242. Or e-mail him at: ghessing@aftra.com.

Tell him that Amy Goodman and the DN! staff should not be forced to report to a job site where they are physically attacked by supervisors and where staff members go on the air to urge their physical destruction. That is fascism, not democracy, and no union should collaborate with such policies.

Pacifica Board Vice Chair Ken Ford
Tel: 800-368-5242 ext. 228
Tel: (301) 350-6388
Fax: 202-822-0369
E-mail: kenfordpacifica@aol.com, kford@nahb.com

Ken Ford's boss at the National Association of Home Builders:
Jerry Howard, CEO 800-368-5242 ext. 257
E-mail: jhoward@nahb.com
Ask that the NAHB's Ken Ford resign from the Pacifica Board today

Pacifica Board member Valrie Chambers
Tel: 361-825-6012
Fax: 281-655-0266
E-mail: Valrie.Chambers@mail.tamucc.edu, valriechambers@aol.com

Pacifica Board member Wendell L. Johns
Tel: 202-752-5355
Fax: 202-752-4281
E-mail: wendell_L_johns@fanniemae.com

Cut the below list of email addresses, paste it into the To: line of your email composition form. Also go to: http://www.progressiveportal.org/letters/pacifica/resign/

Bmwpacifica@aol.com, uleid@escape.com, sypacifica@aol.com, kford@nahb.com, KenFordPacifica@aol.com, jmurdock@ebglaw.com, wendell_L_johns@fanniemae.com, Alfigo@aol.com, valriechambers@aol.com, Valrie.Chambers@mail.tamucc.edu, jhoward@nahb.com, bsmith@nahbofficer.com, pacificacampaign@yahoo.com, ghessing@aftra.com

The Pacifica Campaign is a grass-roots organization representing listeners and staff alike, fighting to preserve Pacifica's 50-year tradition of progressive, community-based radio. Our mailing address: The Pacifica Campaign, 51 MacDougal St., #80, New York, NY 10012.