To outsiders, the gag order, firings, on-air resignations and general mishegas at WBAI seems like internecine leftist warfare, a ragged band of radicals struggling against the more mainstream liberals of the national Pacifica board. But the 30-year-old radio station’s staff and volunteers are now mounting a mighty effort to change that impression by recasting the war along classic labor/management lines.
To that end, WBAI staffers have brought on noted labor consultant Ray Rogers. It’s an effort they hope will enlist the sympathies of New York radio listeners, and boost their claim that the national Pacifica board’s attempts to purge WBAI staff and change programming amounts to a corporate takeover.
Rogers is famed as the granddaddy of the “corporate campaign”–the kind of labor organizing that targets not just a corporation, but its partners, friends, and allies as well. For example, a corporate campaign not only goes after a company with bad labor practices, but targets individual members of the firm’s board of directors–as well as the other companies that those board members may be involved with.
“We’re keeping our nose to the grindstone. Where the buck has to stop is the guys at the top–Ford, Murdock, this guy Palmer,” said Rogers, ticking off names from Pacifica’s Board of Directors.
Worried that local shows may not survive the changes, hosts and producers of community news and information shows applauded the decision to bring Rogers on. “That brings it to a new level–a dramatic gesture of that nature moves it from a local dispute, which it never really was, to a national struggle,” said Ken Nash, co-host of “Building Bridges,” a news and talk show about local labor disputes. (His own co-host, Mimi Rosenberg, was summarily fired after breaking the gag order against talking about l’affaire Pacifica on the air; she is now planning a First Amendment lawsuit against the board.)
“It’s war–it’s total war, at this point,” said Nash. “We have to get them off. We have to get them out, and that’s the way it should be.”