Pacifica’s Democracy Now in Re-Runs Due to Labor Dispute

  • Pacifica’s Democracy Now in Re-Runs Due to Labor Dispute
    This is something I’ve meant to post for the last week, but only just gotten to it now… sorry. It’s been a tough two weeks for Amy Goodman, the host of the most popular nationwide progressive news program, Pacifica’s Democracy Now. The program has been in re-runs since Tuesday, Aug. 13 when Goodman and her staff attempted to originate the program from a studio outside of Pacifica station WBAI, where the program is normally produced. The Democracy Now staff took this action after being moved to moved from their usual location in WBAIÂ’s main broadcast studio to a smaller auxiliary production studio, and after an incident between Goodman and WBAI station manager Utrice Leid, in which eyewitnesses say Leid physically pushed Goodman. After this incident Goodman and her staff say that they fear for their safety at the station and cannot return to WBAI without strong assurances that they will be protected.

    Since Aug. 13 Goodman and her staff have been producing Democracy Now from their outside studio, attempting to have it uplinked by Pacifica for national satellite distribution, which Pacifica management has refused to do. The show, however, has been distributed over the Internet by (WBAI in Exile), which has made it possible for some affiliate stations to air the fresh editions of Democracy Now rather than the archive re-runs aired by Pacifica.

    On Aug. 21 Goodman and the Democracy Now staff learned from the morning NY papers that they had been suspended without pay by Pacifica management, over their refusal to produce the program at DN. As of today, Democracy Now remains in reruns on the Pacifica network, and today Pacifica and WBAI’s union, AFTRA, released a joint statement saying that they had reached an agreement on the safety of working conditions at WBAI, and that Goodman and her staff have been ordered to return to work. Supporters of Goodman have been openly critical of AFTRA, believing that the union shares a too-close relationship with Pacifica and therefore does not adequately represent the interests of its members and Amy Goodman.

    This struggle over Democracy Now is the latest chapter in a more than five year old dispute between the Pacifica Foundation and a diverse organized group of listeners and former employees and volunteers who believe that the 50 year-old radio network has lost sight of its mission, forcibly instituting a rigid top-down management style, firing volutneer programmers and dissenting staff, and moving programming to the political center. The dispute reached a new climax two years ago when the entire staff of Berkeley, CA station KPFA was locked out of the station for almost a month, a situation echoed last December at WBAI when long term staff were suddenly fired over the Christmas holidays, in what has come to be called the “Christmas Coup.”

    For its part, Pacifica, in effect, says, “NOT.”

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