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Ensuring victory, avoiding a reign of terror
Process Process Process

 

Here is an idea that could help stop the bleeding here in NEW YORK at WBAI and would help all the stations heal. It ain't gonna be pretty otherwise. Everyone has a sense of entitlement and everything has to change.

-Patty H. (Interim Webmistress - Roger is on tour. Yeah he can really whip up a crowd)

(((((((((0)))))))))

Found on New Pacifica List -Dec 13, 2001

Dave Burstein
18 year WBAI programmer

Folks,

It is time to be strong and effective, but without hate or vindictiveness. Management needs to be changed, the mission rebuilt, great programming restored. We honor ourselves best by moving swiftly, but with respect, due process, and careful effort. It was wrong for anyone to be fired and banned for disagreeing with management. We should not repeat the mistake.

If the results are as good as they look, a great first victory has been achieved. Folks like myself, who only played a small role, owe enormous debts to those who were even more active, and sacrificed much more.

We must attend to the necessary change in leadership, after the obvious failure of current management. Calm, fair process will ultimately win us the respect of the community, each other, and outsiders - including the judge - who will watch our actions.

I suggest four principles on personnel changes.

1- Anyone whose actions have shown them unfit to lead others should be removed from management - properly
One crucial skill for all current and future Pacifica management is the ability to work in a democratic environment and with those you disagree. Several Pacifica executive's actions have clearly disqualified them from continuing. I was one of nine producers that Utrice Leid threatened to arrest when we quietly and peacefully attended a staff meeting. This was not a sit in or demonstration, and none of us had been banned. She escalated to saying "I'm not threatening, I'm promising" to have us arrested, but ultimately backed down. Folks like that needed to be removed from power.

Practical Method: Pacifica has a tradition of annual reviews of executives, and that no contracts last past that review. The local boards should be mandated to immediately carry out that review, and conclude it as quickly as possible, ideally in a few weeks. They should be given a guideline that one key factor in that review should be ability to work in a democratic environment and with those you disagree. That will establish a clear record on which to act; many of those who should go are likely to quickly resign, knowing their actions will be questioned, just as Utrice did. (Could Garland Ganter, who had a LAB member arrested and publicly disparged so many survive an objective review?)

2- Revenge is not sweet, nor bannings in turn justice
I've been cursed and insulted by some of the folks remaining, but I want to speak out against any purges. Vengence is a poison, and any attempt to apply it here inevitably going to be inappropriate and heavy-handed. After all, honorable folk - like Michio Kaku - made very bad decisions after the coup. In practice, people who are enemies of a democratic Pacifica have already been dishonored by their own actions. Most will leave soon of their own accord; the others will never be trusted, and can be blocked from positions of leadership. They should be discredited; they need not become a next generation of "fired and banned."

Make it practical: The board should immediately require that no individual should be fired without the approval of the Executive Director and a report from the Executive Director to the board on the circumstances that led to the firing. Those fired should have clear rights of hearing and appeal. Due process in the contract should be carefully followed.

3- All jobs should be filled through an open process with wide input
Pacifica has lots of good procedures, many embodied in union contracts. One of the worst abuses of recent management was hiring a set of cronies, ignoring every requirement to openly post the jobs, have applicant review committees, include an affirmative action officer on the ARC, and generally do things openly and honestly. Several unqualified folk are being carried at WBAI, all second rate "friends of Utrice". Those folks, presumably on "temporary" status, should be allowed to apply for the permanent job - their lack of qualifications should shame them away.

Make it practical: The procedures in the rules are reasonable, and the board should reiterate them and make sure they are followed. Station manager hiring requires consultation with the local board. In New York, all positions should be widely advertised, with serious affirmative action outreach. A reasonably representative committee makes the recommendation, per the union contract. That contract has been totally ignored for the last year, with multiple grievances. We need more good people, not the job-seeking hacks we've seen lately.

4- Anyone banned or fired primarily because of disagreements with managements should be immediately considered for rehiring/return to the air
There is no reason to delay returning Democracy Now! nationwide, and shows like Building Bridges and Health Action in New York. Similarly, Dred Scott Keyes was fired after more than a decade as an engineer with WBAI, clearly on trumped up charges. There are many more examples.

Make it practical: As incentive to make these actions quick, the board should restart their salaries in three weeks if no action has been taken (and sooner if necessary.)

I'm also working on a set of proposal for going forward, with practical thoughts on achieving some of these goals:

Revitalizing the program council, to make rational and careful decisions. This made an extraordinary difference a decade ago, and we can learn from a realworld success.

Capturing the energy that bought thousands out our cause, by creating events and institutions that bring listeners into more active involvement

Using the Internet to expand reach, programming, and communication with our listeners

Moving toward an elected power structure, starting with an immediate election for some of the representatives to the local board. Starting by electing, say, 25% new members, allows learning how to solve the problems elections impose. We have many issues to resolve on elections (can people vote with a payment?, how far back do we go on subscribers? proportional representation to ensure all factions have a voice? guaranteeing a strong presence of minorities and women? Voting by mail or on-line? electioneering on the air? candidate information to voters in what form? and many practical details), but think we should move in good faith to immediately elect some of the members without risk. Then we can quickly move (months, not years) to more elected positions. I believe it important the boards have access to the air to allow the candidates to make their opinions clear.

But that's for another day. I've prattled on long enough.

Dave Burstein
18 year WBAI programmer

Thanks to everyone, both the public leaders like Carol and the quiet workers like R. and A. in New York, and so many more.




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