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Democracy Now!/AFTRA:
LA Times piece and a speech 8-26-01


The Los Angeles Times
Saturday, August 25, 2001




Union Supporting 'Democracy' Staff

The flagship station of the Pacifica radio show "Democracy Now!" is not a "safe and appropriate working environment," the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists declared Thursday.

The program on the left-leaning Pacifica network airs weekday mornings on KPFK-FM (90.7), and normally originates from WBAI-FM in New York.

The show's host, Amy Goodman, has maintained that threats and intimidation from WBAI managers forced her and her staff to begin broadcasting "Democracy Now!" from an off-site studio last week. Pacifica officials have not only refused to air what they call "unauthorized" broadcasts, but suspended the staff without pay until it returns to work at WBAI.

AFTRA had reached an agreement with Pacifica that the network would investigate Goodman's allegations, during which the programs' staff would return to work at the station. But AFTRA has now rescinded its recommendation, saying that subsequent incidents changed its view of the safety at WBAI.

Larry Drapkin, a Los Angeles-based labor lawyer for Pacifica, said AFTRA is free to file a grievance, but that the workers must return to the station in the meantime. Goodman, for her part, said she and her staff are fulfilling their responsibilities and won't return to WBAI until their safety is ensured.


AFTRA speech

The following is a transcript of a speech by the new president of AFTRA given at a fundraising event for the Free Pacifica Lawsuits and the Pacifica Campaign yesterday in Los Angeles. He addresses the issue of Democracy Now!


Speech- AFTRA President 8/26 Benefit

Santa Monica, CA (August 26, 2001)- Musical Garden Party to benefit the Free pacifica Lawsuits and the Pacifica Campaign:

Jim Lafferty, Executive Director, National lawyers Guild of Los Angeles: The union that represents so many of the workers at, for example, at WBAI in New York, that represents Amy Goodman, is AFTRA, of course.

We now have as the national president of AFTRA, a home town boy, John Connolly. John Connolly, some of you may know because he led that hard, bitter six-month strike on behalf of the striking actors who do commercials. And when Hollywood was beginning to wonder where it was going to go, it was John and his union that was out front on that. He is himself an actor, he's currently on a series on television, He's been a union activist and a progressive and a champion of a lot of the causes of a lot of the folks here in this yard today for a long time.

He's just now been installed, as I said, as the national president of AFTRA.

There have been a lot of questions about what has been going on with Amy, what has been going on with her show, has her union been supporting her enough, and so forth, and so the organizers of this event invited John Connelly, the new president of AFTRA, to come and speak briefly to us today.

John Connolly: Hi everybody. Good Afternoon.

Thirty-some years ago when my mother forced me to join the Catholic youth organization summer theater program, little did she know what she was loosing upon the world. She was helped along by the United States government who attempted to send me to Viet Nam.

I cooperated with the theater. I didn't cooperate with the government.

I'm not going to take much of your time. I wanted to have a chance to come and say hello and wish you well with your activity here. I know the underlying questions at Pacifica are of intense interest to a broad layer of people throughout this country.

People are paying close attention to what is going on, and you're playing a key part in all of it.

I wanted to come to tell you very clearly that from the first hour of the first day of the latest crisis with Democracy Now, and the threat to our AFTRA members, Amy Goodman and her colleagues, AFTRA has been on the case. We defend not only the physical safety, but the democratic rights, of our members.

That's where we start and that's where we're going to end.

When it became clear last weekend that the Pacifica management was not able to guarantee the safety of our fellow workers, AFTRA made it clear to Pacifica that we agreed with Amy and her colleagues, that they should not have to return to the unsafe WBAI workplace, and it is our feeling that the broadcast currently originating in downtown Manhatten should be permitted to continue from the remote location, until it is clearly, finally and firmly established that Pacifica can guarantee a safe workplace for Amy and her colleagues.

Dave Adelson: [question from audience, not clearly intelligible on the tape]

Connolly: I'm sorry, I couldn't quite hear you.

Adelson: [not clearly intelligible]

Connolly: Would you tell me what comment on what website?

Adelson: [not clearly intelligible]

Connolly: On the Pacifica website.

Adelson: [not clearly intelligible]

Connolly: Right. Adelson: [continuing briefly]

Connolly: Let me go to that, you're dead right about that.

The gentleman says that Pacifica has a habit of leaving statements which are way outdated on their website as justification for their position.

That's absolutely true.

We have instructed them that they do not have the right to use any statements from AFTRA that are not current and are not reflective of our current policy.

I have copies of our latest statement here with me and I'll be happy to leave them here with you folks. Pass them out. You can discuss them.

Now this doesn't mean that we are going to agree on every tactic. But the principle that we begin from, at AFTRA, is that we're here to protect our members, their physical safety, and their right to do their job. That's where we start, that's where we continue, and that's where we'll end. And so, I wanted to wish you good luck, and say hello to Juan.

I first met Juan, he may not remember, more than 10 years ago, during the struggle at the Daily News, in New York, when AFTRA donated money to the workers on strike, sent people to the picket lines, and supported fundraising activities.

Just to give you a real brief idea of the kind of work we are doing right now, within 72 hours of my election as president, a fight broke out between AFTRA and CBS over affirmative action. Our feeling that performers working in Spanish language have the right to the same kind of dignity in condition as artistic workers who work in English language.

And so, we went to war on that right away. Then the Democracy Now situation began. And now we have another fight with CBS on our hands, and I want to ask for your help.

At KFWB news radio, we have a unit of news production assistants, who are working for really substandard wages. They voted for union recognition, and we're going to be having an informational picket line on Wednesday, September 5th, at KFWB in Hollywood from 11:30 to 12:30 PM, at 6230 Yucca Street.

So if any of you are around and feel like going on a picket line, join us then.

Thank you all very much.


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