May 28th: See Financial Analysis at bottom of post. And: VICTORY! Well, a little. Bullard Law is fired, per leaked email. But the “Strategic Plan” has not been fully revealed, and other anti-union advisers are available. Come to the Board Meeting Monday night, June 3rd, 6PM, at 20 SE 8th (unless venue is changed).
Here is the crisis at KBOO in a nutshell: a minority of Board members, using ideas from a Meyer Family Fund grant, have begun a “reorganization” of KBOO. With Lynn Fitch, “Station Navigator/Manager/Executive Director,” as their autocrat, they seek to de-emphasize KBOO’s community identity, first by changing the entire staff via a mass firing, then by assuring the local business community that (as an ad says in Laurelhurst Theater) “KBOO isn’t just for communists anymore.” The desired result is to clean out messy participatory structure, and clear the way to make KBOO more dependent on business grants, than on individual membership donations. But–the individual member is the heart of community media. KBOO is known for its kaleidoscopic variety, and for its hard-hitting dissent. For this, we need our transparency, our members, and our integrity.
WHAT IS THE SITUATION NOW?
After a foiled April attempt by the Board Treasurer and the “Navigator” to lock out and fire all staff, the now-Unionized workforce is trying to get their usual work done under the sword of Damocles. They must work with Lynn, knowing that she took covert steps to fire them all. The Union representatives complain that their calls are not being returned…which is not surprising, because KBOO has hired the granddaddy of all union-busters to confound the proceedings. After a series of exposes and agitations on Portland Indymedia, Lynn took two-and-a-half hours of air time to promote her view of the struggle.
Things Lynn Fitch said during the first KBOO “Naked, Raw and Exposed” show:
(compiled by an excellent journalist who shall go unnamed here. Watch for references to the notorious anti-worker, union-busting firm Bullard.)
1:07 “I consulted with Sussman-Shanks to find out how I can legally
lay people off during a restructuring.”
“It’s a difficult thing to do, you want it to be well-thought out, you
want it to be thoughtful, you want it to be legal….. It also
protects the employer from a wrongful-termination lawsuit.”
“The Board are the only ones that can hire and or fire me, so I watch
out for their best interests.”
1:10 “When it became apparent that Sussman-Shanks did not have the
experience or qualifications for union negotiations or labor law,
Bullard Law was their recommendation….They set up an intitial
consultation. That initial consultation included myself and three
members of the Board, including the Board President.”
1:15 “I did hire Bullard Law. We have a retainer for them. It’s not
for negotiation. They were hired to help me fill out forms.”
“Our two lawyers, the Union’s lawyer and our lawyer, are talking to
each other. And we voluntarily said now that we will recognize the
union. I don’t sit idly by. I’ve been taking in information,
listening to people…
And the union is still going to hold the election on May 30th. We
aren’t going to fire our lawyer [Bullard law], we’re not spending any
more money on them, they’re on retainer. Once we get to the election
part, then negotiations begin and I will negotiate with Madeline and
the lawyers step out.”
1:18 “Unless the union changes its mind, and doesn’t want to have the
election…that would involve a legal agreement that would come from
their lawyer to our lawyer.”
According to Madeline [CWA President], the statement Lynn made last night appears to
indicate that management is going back on their pledge of agreeing to
The union lawyer DID contact the kboo management lawyer last week
saying that we accept the belated agreement by management to recognize
the union, so there is no need for an election.
Apparently the kboo management lawyer never replied.
It appears that management wants to force an election, despite
repeated offers by the union to allow them to voluntarily recognize
1:20 “The job descriptions that staff have now are the ones that they
kind of developed for themselves during the staff collective time.”
1. There was never a staff collective, since it was never approved by
the Board. The staff worked for two years to develop a proposal that
the Board would approve, but that never happened. In the meantime,
the station kept running, with management tasks delegated between
2. No job descriptions of incumbent staff were re-written during that
period. When the engineer was fired for cause in 2010, the Personnel
committee adjusted that job description to be a part-time interim
engineer job description. When the Program Director resigned in 2011,
the Personnel committee also adjusted that job description to save the
station money and increase efficiency by hiring a part-time interim
person in that position as well.
The left panel of the KBOO image below advertising the “Naked, Raw and Expsed” event shows the “Navigator” in an apparently friendly pose with the CWA President, who she has avoided. The right panel of the image below shows Arlo Guthrie hugging Station Manager Lynn Fitch. When Keeper activist Mark contacted Guthrie’s sister, this is how she responded:
“Thank you for the email. First, I can’t speak for Arlo but, I can say he is a member of the local 1000 traveling musicians union. Like any type of organization some are good and have done great things and some are bullies!”
“Lynn Fitch does not have permission to use Arlo’s name or likeness.”
At a May 4th informal Member meeting at Tabor Space in Portland, the Station Manager and the Board Treasurer convinced many that the crisis is over. Yet the crisis remains–because the Station Manager (“Executive Director, Navigator”) was given autocratic powers by a hapless Board decision. Lynn says she will support the new Staff union–but at this point, she has no choice. She has also said that she intends to move forward with changing programming and reducing staff…and she still has legal options to do so.
KBOO has always taken pride in being a participatory and transparent institution. So, for example, when there was a desire, in recent years, to re-examine programming, a careful and lengthy survey was undertaken. Volunteers and members were consulted, and some important and useful changes were made. Now another overhaul is in the works–and democratic participation is out the window. Apparently, it’s messy and annoying.
WHY THE SECRECY?
I am writing to reveal a different, top-down process that is now being implemented, initially with the best of intentions, by a few Board members and their new Station Manager. These changes–merely hinted at during the May 4th 2013 member forum, are apparently so drastic, that it was first necessary to secretly arrange to fire all KBOO Staff! The process was to have been completed BEFORE the May 4th meeting–a fait accompli. The Station Manager (“Navigator”) admitted this in a Staff meeting, saying it would have been “fair” and that everyone would be allowed to re-compete for a job–against new applicants! The plan was revealed when the Treasurer said, in a Board meeting, that check-signing arrangements were being altered. Fired employees can’t sign checks, you see….and the current Staff is merely good at running a participatory station. Which won’t do at all.
May 20th UPDATE: Station Navigator Lynn Fitch revealed that the expensive Bullard union-busting specialists are still on the KBOO payroll and will remain so. She avoided any explicit mention of her attempt in April to fire all KBOO Staff. She painted her relations with the union as patient and reasonable–so you should hear the CWA president’s version of it: http://kboo.fm/content/laborradioon051313 ….See Board minutes regarding the “ringleader” and the “strategic plan” below. CWA spokesperson said Friday that KBOO management was “playing phone tag” regarding negotiations. With the Bullard Law union-busters still on KBOO payroll, any delay may be viewed as tactical. A reorganization appears to be in the works; this would mean a lockout, and a downsizing of community participation.
KBOO has generally been careful when personnel changes were necessary, respecting the rights of workers. So it was a shock when the Board and Station Manager produced a document this March, stating that employees worked “at will” and thus could be fired at any time without cause. Sensing that drastic and unfavorable changes were coming to their workplace, and reacting to the loss of sick pay and sabbaticals that they had accumulated through years of work, Staff organized. They presented their proposed CWA Local Union 7901 to the Station Manager (Lynn Fitch) during this April’s Membership Drive. They kept the action quiet, so that the Drive would be unaffected. They asked Ms. Fitch for a timely response. KBOO Staff were looking forward to continuing their enthusiastic and dedicated service–as Union members. And, really, I thought that little would come of it–this is KBOO, right?–
KBOO: UNION BUSTER
Ms. Fitch responded by meeting with the union management arm of Paychex/HR Solutions–a $5 billion, union-unfriendly outfit. And now, at least one check has been written on KBOO funds, for two thousand dollars–for lawyers at the Bullard union-busting firm– just to prevent the very thing that KBOO Public Affairs programmers have so long championed: dignity and democracy in the workplace! The CWA Union representative has pointed out that, at the last Board meeting, Directors repeatedly called for actions that would violate the Labor Relations Act of 1935 and related statutes.
SQUANDERING MEMBER DONATIONS
Is this how we want KBOO member funds spent? Why in the world would KBOO, of all institutions in the world, want to fight unions? The presence of a bargaining unit is not a threat to a transparent, participatory institution. All the union wants is respect–and probably a very small raise, to cover union dues.
BANKRUPT? FAR FROM IT!
Ironically, it is cash flow that is being presented as the driving force behind this corporatization push. There has been some shortfall…Yet the Winter Membership Drive was cancelled, citing the $200,000 in reserves at KBOO as of the November 2012 Finance Committee report. That drive cancellation meant the loss of $50 to $70 thousand in revenue. The corporatization group says that “we can’t keep milking that cow.” Yet that is the very basis for community radio’s continued flourishing in the midst of crushing unemployment and recession: we get our money directly from members, in small contributions, and that cash-flow paradigm keeps KBOO healthy and honest. The recent Membership Drive came up $3K short, and that is being pointed to as well–but the $30K bequest that was offered KBOO was effectively turned down by the Station Manager (others arranged to keep it coming in). So, what is going on? What are the true motivations here? And why did Board Treasurer Paula Small try to scare the Members with the “$738,500+ needed” claim? (That was a number from an annual budget…which we have been making every year. Open the books, Paula! We probably only need that $70,000.)
WAS THE CRISIS CREATED INTENTIONALLY?
When the Congressional Republicans wanted to destroy the US Postal Service–to replace it with their corporate donors FEDEX and UPS–they added a disastrous 70year pension-funding obligation to the USPS’ duties. Is this a similar scam? Was the Winter Membership Drive spiked by the Station Navigator in order to create the $70,000 shortfall? Because it certainly worked for that….
WE WANT OUR FUTURE BACK
In fact, KBOO had a bright future before these changes were pushed through. We had lost some audience for morning public affairs to KPOJ, which has now been wiped out by its own top-down corporate management; that audience is returning. Our substantial public affairs and journalism strength continue to draw audience, even in the Internet age. If we need to spend funds, it should be on expansion of our Internet and smartphone presence, not on crushing workers. The last thing this radio market needs is an NPR/OPB junior wannabe, even if we can get some grants that way. There are many ways to raise more funds, starting with raising visibility, and thus expanding our audience and member base. (Yard signs would work.) KBOO is still too much an “in secret” in this area–let’s change that!
KBOOLEAKS…KEEP THEM COMING
Whereas I respect the desire to innovate and move forward, I feel that it is inappropriate and disastrous to secretly attempt to apply common capitalist business practices to our unique and (up til now) democratic institution. That’s a move backward. (My sources? Solid. Confirmed. Confidential. Further confirmation in the May 4 Meeting transcript at http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2013/05/423237.shtml ) …KBOO does not “compete with the business community” in staffing practices–KBOO was formed to do what its members want, not what the business community expects. Our Staff proudly work long hours for minimal wages; they are a terrific “bargain” in labor output. They are needed for our style of broadcasting. Now they are faced with a demoralizing workplace that looks at them as little better than a nuisance and a drain. Is that how we want things to be at KBOO?
IT IS NOT TOO LATE
We, as members, are not left without recourse. Some are now organizing aSpecial General Membership meeting (probably in July), which would have the power to rescind the terrifically expensive anti-union push, and restore transparency and participation to KBOO. (Watch this space for details!) We may have to move quickly on this; once the programming is gutted, the audience changes and members will leave en masse, in disgust.
KBOO Programming Charter:
“KBOO shall be a model of programming, filling needs that other media do not, providing programming to diverse communities and unserved or underserved groups. KBOO shall provide access and training to those communities.
KBOO’s news and public affairs programming shall place an emphasis on providing a forum for unpopular, controversial, or neglected perspectives on important local, national, and international issues, reflecting KBOO’s values of peace, justice, democracy, human rights, multiculturalism, environmentalism, freedom of expression, and social change.
KBOO’s arts, cultural, and music programming shall cover a wide spectrum of expression from traditional to experimental, and reflect the diverse cultures KBOO serves.
KBOO shall strive for spontaneity and programming excellence, both in content and technique.”
New replacement for the KBOO Programming Charter:
In contrast- the Board minutes from November 26, 2012 listed the new KBOO
Mission Statement as:
"Working together to transmit culture, news and music that matters."
The minutes add:
"from the Mission Statement the programming charter is created".
…………………………………………………………………………Friday May 3rd update…………………………………………………………………..
Here is an excerpt of the union-busting letter sent to KBOO workers.
TO: All KBOO Employees
FROM: Lyn Fitch, Executive Director
DATE: April 26, 2013
RE: NLRB ELECTION
GET THE FACTS! [underlined]
“Whether CWA comes here to our workplace is a very important decision. It could radically change the nature of your employment relationship with KBOO.
“We want to take this opportunity to remind all employees about KBOO’s position on unions. KBOO has proudly and successfully carried out its responsibilities to our employees without the involvement of outside, third-party labor union representation–even while our programming and our values have historically supported social justice movements and workers [sic] rights. Throughout our history, KBOO has strived to uphold the following guiding principles: 1. fairness, honesty, and respectful treatment; 2. direct, frank, and open communication, and 3. good working conditions, wages, and benefits for all employees. [like mass firings! –tm]
“KBOO is dedicated to continuously enhancing our relationship with our employees. We respect your right to support or not support a union, but the KBOO Foundation does not agree that union representation is in the best interest of our employees or KBOO, at this critical point in our evolution. To help you make your decision, we want to make sure that you know both sides of what it means (and does not mean) to join a union, and that you will make an informed decision about whether to sign a union authorization card or petition. [note the boilerplate here–authorization and petition is past. tm]
“We’ll be giving you a lot of important information in the next few weeks to make sure you can make an informed decision on election-day. All we ask is that you keep an open mind, and hear the full story of what it means (and does not mean) to have a union here before you make a decision on how to vote.
“We encourage you to raise any questions you may have about the election or its potential outcomes with your supervisor, or with me. [there are ten union-eligible employees and one workplace–tm] We will do our best to provide you with the information you need as quickly as possible, within the strict legal guidelines of what we can and can’t say during this election process. [end letter–tm]
Letter by national award-winning volunteer and ex-Staff member Bruce Silverman:
My name is Bruce Silverman. I have been a volunteer at KBOO for 21 years, and I was on the staff as the Building Manager for 11 years, until I was terminated for the crime of working extra hours, off the clock, in order to get the job done for KBOO.
I’m going to try to be positive, and at the end I will propose actions we can take to resolve the problem. The negative stuff does need to be said, however, to enable all of us to get a more full picture of what has been going on. That has been a challenge, because of all the secrecy.
I think Lynn Fitch sincerely believes that the actions she has taken, and those she wants to take, will make a more effective organization. I don’t doubt her sincerity in that regard. This needs to be said, because there have been a few people in the past who truly wanted to kill KBOO off, and a couple of Lynn’s supporters may have that goal. But not her. In fact, she is striving for the goals that the Board directed her to attain. So, to me, it is the Board that has blundered.
Lynn was paraphrased by Willamette Week as saying that KBOO has been losing money for years. Yes! Forty-nine years, actually, since May 30th, 1964, the day that the idea for this station was proposed. KBOO is not for profit. So what is KBOO for? KBOO is for filling needs that other media don’t, especially to unserved and underserved groups. KBOO is for training people in the skills of broadcasting and of journalism. KBOO is for providing a forum for unpopular, controversial and neglected perspectives on such issues as peace, justice, democracy, human rights, multiculturalism, environmentalism, freedom of expression and social change. KBOO is for exposing people to elements of culture and the arts that others fail to provide.
None of this is profitable. Could we do a better job of making our work less unprofitable? Yes. The fact is, many, maybe most, of the goals that have been spelled out in the Strategic Plan and by the Finance Director, concerning better fiscal practices, have been embraced by the Staff. It was the Staff, acting as collective management, that set up a schedule to meet the many deadlines, large and small, near-term and long-term, called for in the Strategic Plan. What bothers me is that there has been the implication that these so-called hippies simply consider KBOO to be their toy to play with, that they are opposed to all programming changes, and that they are so anti-capitalist that they are comfortable with, even enjoy, being broke all the time. Absolutely not. This is the Staff that voluntarily increased the co-pay on their medical benefits. This is the staff that volunteered to take a twelve-and-a-half percent cut in their hours, and thus in their pay, in order to balance the budget, even though the hours they’re paid for aren’t nearly enough to complete the work they are called on to do. With the recently proposed mass firing, one might have lost her home to the mortgage lender, and another would surely have lost his crummy $600 apartment, the best he could afford. Those concessions were not unanimous. One employee refused to cut even one minute from his pay, he feels he is too important. You won’t be surprised to learn that he is the one opposed to the union.
We have always had collaborative thinking and decision-making at KBOO, and it wouldn’t be KBOO any other way. Sometimes it’s slow, sometimes it’s messy.We can improve these processes. But if we look at our own record, we find that almost every time, we come up with a better resolution, without the blunders we have seen in recent weeks, which have come because of failure, no, refusal to consult and collaborate with those who have relevant knowledge and experience. Many of the good new ideas for programming, for business practices, for raising money and for spending it more prudently, have come from Staff members, and many of the rest have come from volunteers and members, but have gotten serious consideration because Staff have moved them forward. To discount all this talent is so foolish. Not that Lynn should have even considered “cleaning house,” but when she did, there were lots of Staff, board members, volunteers, members, and listeners who could have advised her that that would have been a violation of the National Labor Standards Act. In fact, she could have asked that agency for free, or gone online, rather than spending thousands of dollars of member money with an anti-labor lawyer and with corporate consultants. She says that lawyer wrote a book about labor-management issues. So be it. KBOO should be using the lawyer who most frequently opposes that one across the courtroom. Either, if they are honest and experienced, can tell the client what the law says. But for advice and counsel, KBOO should be hiring the other one.
I said I would propose solutions:
Re-establish the committees that include members of all stakeholder groups. Go beyond that and tell people what challenges we have, large and small, and seriously ask people for their suggestions. Re-establish the grievance procedure. Return from “at-will” terminations to “for cause;” frankly, it doesn’t take much of a cause to fire an employee. But until they deserve termination, the humane thing to do is assure a bit of stability. Change the job description of the Station Manager, no Navigator, no, Executive Director, back to what it was. (This name changing reminds me of when Exxon changed the name of the Valdez, and when Blackwater’s owner changed its name, when it became an embarrassment. Are those the kinds of people we want to be associated with?) Finally, I call on the Board to terminate Lynn Fitch’s appointment. Despite my defense of the Staff, I could live as well with a single Station Manager. I acknowledge that the Chief Operating Officer makes final decisions. But the work leading to good decisions must include everyone who has something to add. And we need a manager whose first commitment is to the mission we have set out for ourselves all these years. Instead of abandoning the ways of doing things that fit out values, we should be embracing and enhancing them.
We have had divisive commotions at KBOO before. Once, it lasted many months. The accusation against the organization was false, but the attackers worked the media well, and two successive membership drives were severely impacted. The day after the contract is signed, I would like the Station Manager and the union leader to record an announcement saying that the issue is resolved, and that those who considered dropping their support of KBOO can now be confident that we are all back on the same team, working to fulfil KBOO’s mission. This message should also be conveyed to any and all media that have covered this controversy. [end]
The THREE YEAR PLAN
Lynn Fitch on Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/lynn-fitch/23/a44/45b
Marketing & Development Director
“Nonprofit; 1-10 employees; Nonprofit Organization Management industry
“June 2009 – October 2010 (1 year 5 months) Portland, Oregon Area
* Designed a comprehensive three-year development plan, increased donors and corporate giving in 1 year
• Developed a national marketing campaign, to raise awareness about the value of Food Alliance certification
• Created a unique city-wide game, with trading cards, to teach consumers about food supply chains
• Produced a successful out-of-town fundraising event featuring Dr. Temple Grandin in Seattle, WA
* Conducted a board mapping exercise, identified key relationships and launched major donor campaign “
Looks good, yes? How did that work out?
Date: Monday, February 11, 2013, 12:03pm PST
Food Alliance to cease operations, board to remain active
By Matthew Kish
The Food Alliance, an organization that certifies sustainable food and agriculture, will cease operations on Friday.
“The Food Alliance is dependent upon grants and funding from the private sector as well as the public sector, both of which have changed drastically in the last several years” said Chair Jeff Picarello. “Most of the funding sources available to support sustainable agriculture in the state have dried up.”
The Portland-based nonprofit, which operates nationwide, lost roughly $58,000 in 2011, according to its latest tax documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service. It had nearly $790,000 in 2011 revenue. The Food Alliance lost more than $8,000 in 2010 on $833,000 in revenue.
Picarello said the organization’s board will continue to meet on a voluntary basis in order to consider requests to use the Food Alliance certification. The board will likely be reconfigured to meet the added workload.
The cease in operations means the Food Alliance will no longer have paid staff to make field visits and certify farmers as sustainable.
“The organization is not going away,” Picarello said. “The standards are not going way.”
The organization’s last day of operations will be this Friday, Feb. 15.
The Food Alliance was founded in 1994 when Oregon State University, Washington State University and the Washington State Department of Agriculture landed funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to launch the program.
Last year it announced a program to certify nurseries as sustainable.
KBOO has a brilliant economic model that was developed to keep it close to its constituents. By accepting small donations from listeners in “membership drives,” KBOO stays honest and suitably funded. It’s a model that has brilliantly weathered the 2008 crash. Did you know that? Or have you fallen for the “not just for communists” propaganda? Here are the real figures:
Revenues FY 13 year to date–
we know that
Fall Pledge Drive made goal
End- of- year appeal letter exceeded goal
Spring Pledge Drive- has almost made goal- within $1000 or so
Underwriting- 41% over goal year to date (+11,280)
But–the Winter Pledge Drive was canceled. Why? The Station “Navigator” said it wasn’t needed. Was this an attempt to create a crisis, to bring in a different, non-member based funding model?
Possible Revenue shortfalls:
Actual ytd- 0 (So much for hobnobbing at the Golf course.)
Local business contribution (not Underwriting or Co-sponsorship)
Actual ytd- 0 (There’s still time for the biz-friendly geniuses to turn this around…)
budgeted events still to come June-Sept.
mainly KBOO birthday party and house parties (where hopefully true KBOOters will step up)
anticipated revenue $50,000
It’s hard to guess what the total shortfall for this might be-
$25,000-$70,000? Or, say, a missing Winter Drive?
Overruns to Expenses:
Professional services- so far this year $6932 over budget –lawyers; some to deal with rogue members, and some to bust unions. Probably doesn’t include the $25 retainer to the union-busters
It is in this context that I posted http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2013/05/423408.shtml the information about Lynn Fitch’s failed three-year plan for Food Alliance–the one in which she “increased corporate giving.” KBOO’s innovative model works brilliantly during hard times, because in hard times WE ARE NEEDED THE MORE and people tune in. That is why we have survived since 2008 and are thriving, whereas KPOJ’s broadcasts and Food Alliance’s extension services are dead. Now come the Saviors who would de-emphasize small donations, and turn to fickle corporations for large donations.
Please read the above facts carefully. And ask yourself: Is it time to replace those lazy, granola-chomping, communist hippies with some real hard-headed, business-friendly, commanding personality types?
Or is that a load of crap?
Could it be that KBOO Staff is actually chock-full of dedicated, brilliant, award winning people, renowned internationally for their accomplishments? That just about everything you’ve heard against them is a lie?
Please take action. The Board Meeting is June 3rd, 7PM, 20 SE 8th.
Please sign this petition. https://www.change.org/petitions/to-the-kboo-board-dump-bullard-law