WBAI staff comments on workplace hostility,
insubordination, and fiscal improvements
at WBAI, 3-25-06
WBAI staff members Paul Ashby (premiums director), Jose Santiago (news director), and Yvonne Singh (business manager) made the following statements in during public comment at the 3-25-06 Pacifica National Board meeting.
The audio is available at: http://kpftx.org/archives/pnb/pnb060324/saturday/pnb060325d.mp3
Good afternoon, my name is Paul Ashby, I'm the premiums director at WBAI, New York. There's a lot I want to say, but I just want to share with the board my experiences of assault and abuse and - well, I'll stop there. Assault and abuse at WBAI. I've been assaulted, choked, kicked, punched, not by the NYPD, but in my place of work, in my office, at my desk. I've not been assaulted in the street - I've been here for five years and I've not been assaulted in the street of East New York, but I've been assaulted in WBAI, Pacifica Radio.
In addition to being assaulted at my place of work, my job's been made miserable, I've been abused, at least once a week, and if we have time I can give you reasons for those ... This individual was initially banned for three days, and this happened on a Friday, and he was banned until Monday. That was extended because I threatened to sue Pacifica.
This was some time ago, the reason why it's an issue again is because this same individual, last Tuesday, is back on the premises. I was working late Tuesday - early Tuesday morning, attended the bathroom, he's in there, washing up, ... I spoke to the security guard - called the security guard, because WBAI does not have security service, spoke to the building security guard, he says that he's repeatedly come to the station and been repeatedly turned away, but he was exasperated on Tuesday morning, because he said that the individual slept over or sleeps over, and that the program director welcomes him in and escorts him in and out. This is the security guard - his words to me. I seem to have a good relationship with him.
I've reached the boiling temperature because I'm not confident this will be addressed to my satisfaction at WBAI, and the reason I feel that is that this same individual has made menacing statements to the interim general manager on the one hand, and on the other, he is on friendly, cordial terms with the program director, so I bring it to your board for satisfactory resolution.
And I'm out of time.
Thank you, in addition for some of you who don't know, in addition to being the news director at WBAI, I'm also the shop steward for the AFTRA union. There are about 30-35 paid staff members and of course we have hundreds more unpaid staff members.
I want to echo some of the concerns that Paul [Ashby] has, and this is one of many areas of concern that we have that have brought us out here. None of us are the regular people that you see at these meetings, but we just felt that we couldn't deal with this anymore. My statement is as follows:
I am requesting that the Pacifica National Board and the Pacifica Executive Director become directly involved in ensuring a safe and non-hostile working environment for the staff of WBAI, New York. In particular, we do not want our interim general manager, Indra Hardat, to have to face verbal or physical threats or abuse as she goes about the business of managing the radio station. Starting about two years ago, a number of paid staff persons at the station began documenting incidents of physical and verbal abuse. We compiled about a dozen cases we felt were actionable. But we did not feel at that time that our station manager, our former station manager [Don Rojas], nor that the majority of the local station board would adequately investigate our concerns or hold the abusers accountable.
So we took our concerns instead to the NY state human rights commission. After initial discussions with the human rights commission, we opted not to complain, for a couple of reasons. One, our general manager then was leaving, and we hoped that things would improve under a new GM, and two we didn't want to saddle the station with exorbitant legal fees on an issue that we felt should be able to be resolved internally. Once Indra Hardat was appointed interim GM, things improved somewhat. But recently, as she has implemented changes, in particular reining in formerly unchecked and questionable spending practices, the hostility has returned. Indra Hardat should not have to experience anyone hovering over her shouting and screaming in a threatening manner; she should not have to be subjected to this in any form from any staff member or any associate of a staff member.
This board and the Pacifica executive director needs to hear directly from WBAI staff members who are being subjected to hostility in the workplace, at times, false accusations of racism, and the technical sabotaging of programs - this happens often with my program, the WBAI Evening News.
Hi. My name is Yvonne Singh, interim business manager of WBAI, and I would like to take this opportunity to present some good news to the PNB, because we have heard so many bad things about WBAI. Not everything is negative. In the past ten months we were able to turn around 300,000 ... We have now reviewed all our expenses, and have now made a number of significant changes, including the savings of thousands of dollars in telephone bills, postage, printing, and office supplies.
We are making all of payments in payroll, in our rent, which is pretty huge, and not forgetting central service, which is current, despite not making three of our last fundraising goals.
One big area of improvement is our community events. Previously a lot of the time, money and energy was spent, and we would only break even. Now we are working with a budget, and there is much more accountability, and we are generating more money at these events. And many of these events, I also attend.
Our reduced spending on telephone, long-distance phone calls ... abuses by staff and others who came to the station. Internet dating agencies ... mailing is now used which is costing us 14 cents per mail. We are also saving on printing and computer cartridges, consultants have been reduced, unauthorized overtime has been reduced drastically. Frankly, we were spending money that we did not have. Now we are sticking to our budget.
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