THURSDAY, JULY 22, 1999

From: National Writers Union nwu@nwu.org Contact: Joann Kawell (510) 548-4142

NATIONAL WRITERS UNION CONDEMNS ANTI-WORKER ACTIONS, CENSORSHIP AT PACIFICA

The National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981), which represents over 5,000 writers in all genres, including 650 in the San Francisco Bay Area, deplores recent actions by the Pacifica Foundation board which threaten employee rights, gravely violate free speech principles, and place in serious jeopardy Pacifica's important role as an independent source of news, opinion and culture.

The board's recent treatment of paid and unpaid staff at Pacifica's Berkeley, CA station KPFA --summary firings, a de facto (if not de jure) staff lockout, protracted refusal to negotiate on issues of deepest staff concern-- would be reprehensible at a for-profit company, let alone at a non-profit institution which has been historically dedicated to the promotion of better conditions for all working people. The board earlier took other anti-union steps which include the hiring of union-busting consultants and attempts to reduce the number of Pacifica workers represented by unions.

The "gag order" on on-air discussion of the current controversy over the future direction of the Pacifica Foundation -in effect at all five Pacifica stations-- is, in a word, censorship. Such censorship is unacceptable at any media outlet anywhere in the world, and it is all the more so at an institution that has been specifically dedicated to free speech since its founding 50 years ago. It has resulted, directly or indirectly, in the firing of KPFA employees and in the disturbing spectacle of a Pacifica station broadcasting only taped programming and protected by armed police and security guards against the entry of staff and listeners.

The National Writers Union calls on the Pacifica board to immediately lift the "gag order" at all Pacifica stations, to end the "collective administrative leave" of KPFA staff, and to reinstitute regular programming at KPFA . We call for independent mediation and support the call of KPFA staff and community representatives for the rehiring of KPFA employees, including station manager Nicole Sawaya, who have lost their jobs as a result of recent Pacifica board actions. These actions bring into serious question whether the board as it is currently constituted truly represents listeners and staff and bring into question as well its ability to carry out Pacifica's founding mandate of providing a free and open community voice in the areas its five stations are licensed to serve.

Jonathan Tasini, President National Writers Union Steering Committee, SF Bay Area Local 3 National Writers Union
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Alice Sunshine, Organizer
National Writers Union/ UAW Local 1981
337 - 17th St., Oakland, CA 94612
tel: 510-839-0110
fax: 510-839-6097
alices@nwu.org

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