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Labor's Edge: Views from the California Labor Movement

Pacifica Hires Notorious Union-Busters Jackson Lewis

by KPFA Worker

KPFA’s parent organization, the Pacifica Foundation, has hired Jackson Lewis, a notorious anti-union law firm which the AFL-CIO calls “America’s number one union-buster.”  The multimillion-dollar corporate firm specializes in what it calls ”preventative practices” — that is, advising managers how to obstruct workers from successfully forming unions and undermining existing unions. “Under its polished veneer lies a for-profit union-buster,” writes the nonprofit American Rights at Work, “one of the oldest and largest” such firms in the nation.

Last week, the union representing KPFA’s workers, Communications Workers of America Local 9415, became aware of Jackson Lewis’ hire by Pacifica at all five stations in the network – KPFA in the San Francisco Bay Area, KPFK in Los Angeles, KPFT in Houston, WPFW in Washington D.C., and WBAI in New York. At a meeting of KPFA’s bargaining unit, the station’s union workers voted to demand that the Pacifica National Board immediately terminate its arrangement with Jackson Lewis, and sent a letter to all members of Pacifica’s board to that effect. The board met Wednesday, March 7, but chose not to take action to reverse its employment of the union-buster.

KPFA's union stewards wrote:

We see the entry of Jackson Lewis as a declaration of war on the unions that represent Pacifica workers. We fear it will lead to unnecessary legal expenses the network can ill afford, sour Pacifica’s already dismal relationship with its union workers, and alienate many listener-supporters who do not want their donations to be handed over to one of organized labor’s greatest enemies in the United States.

Jackson Lewis, which has 48 offices around the country, holds seminars for employers on how to maintain a “union free environment.” One such seminar was profiled in In These Times. Jackson Lewis also advises employers on mastering corporate “concerns” with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including targeting workers who take medical leave.

The letter from KPFA’s union stewards cited a New York Times investigation into anti-union practices of the company EnerSys, which followed the advice of Jackson Lewis.  EnerSys eventually sued Jackson Lewis for malpractice and advising the company to violate the law. Under Jackson Lewis’ direction, EnerSys illegally fired union leaders, spied on workers, and finally closed the plant as an act of retribution against the union.

KPFA’s union stewards:

The modus operandi of firms like Jackson Lewis is to counsel their clients to take hard-line stances against unions — reject all bargaining demands, reject even the most basic grievances — and then rack up billable hours representing those clients in the ensuing arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board hearings.

The company boasts of the accolades it has received from a survey of Fortune 1000 companies as “the single highest-ranked firm clients want by their side in employment battles.” Jackson Lewis expanded during the economic crisis, its gross revenue increasing by 15% in 2010 to more than $295 million (and by 10% in 2009 and 20% in 2008).

For many KPFA listeners and staff, Pacifica’s latest move brings back memories of their struggle against Pacifica management over a decade ago, in which Pacifica hired an anti-union consultant and then installed armed guards, eventually locking out its entire staff and shutting down the station. The new agreement with Jackson Lewis comes on top of over $100,000 KPFA has already spent on other anti-union legal consultants.

If you are a member of a union, we ask that you get your local union or labor council to pass a resolution condemning Pacifica’s hire of one of the country’s top union-busters. As an individual, please sign this petition demanding that Pacifica drop Jackson Lewis immediately.  And please take a moment to ask your friends on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere to do the same.  Stay tuned for updates!

Posted on 03/13/2012Permalink

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Reader Discussion

I won’t be sending Pacifica any of my money, and that includes KPFK 90.7 fm in Los Angeles. What they are doing is reckless and shows a disregard for the goals and mission of Pacifica. What is needed is a new Board of Directors with a working class outlook on life.

at 4:15 pm on Fri, Mar 16, 2012Posted by Joseph Hancock

As one of the earliest subscribers to KPFA,  a KPFA commentator for 20 years, a current commentator on KPFT, I’m appalled at what seems to be happening. The employees and volunteers at Pacifica stations provide a unique and valuable service that’s especially needed in broadcasting, as a counter to the reactionary, profit-lusting corporations who dominatel the media.

at 7:57 pm on Fri, Mar 16, 2012Posted by dick meister

I am against anyone who puts corprate greed before humanism,its cold too keep poeple poor & supressed,there’s more than enough too go around

at 12:30 pm on Sat, Mar 17, 2012Posted by erik j corbiere

As an early KPFA subscriber and commentator there for 20 years and current commentator on KPFT, I’m appalled at Pacifica’s hiring of a union buster. It’s an action one could expect from the commercial media corporations that dominate broadcast but absolutely counter to the interests of Paciifiica’s employees, volunteers and subscribers and anyone else who believes in genuine free speech.

at 2:28 pm on Sat, Mar 17, 2012Posted by dick meister

Coporations who engage in the tactic of deliberatley attempting to thwart the democratic process of worker’s exercising thier collective civil rights, are bottom feeders plain and simple.

As one who has personally witnessed this in my own workplace, I can say that the campaign of lies, disnformation, intimidation and injecting fear constitutes the intentional infliction of emotional duress by a croporation. It absolutely will create a hostile work environment with the sole purpose of defeating a workplace democracy.

Support the exercise of free choice and oppose this at every level. Let the workers decide.

at 9:00 am on Sun, Mar 18, 2012Posted by Organize Sitel Asheville

You got the story all wrong. Jackson-Lewis is not handling contract negotiations, labor grievances or any union issues with the CWA, NABET or AFTRA. They were hired by Pacificas officer and directors insurance policy (in 2009!) to handle sexual harassment and wrongful discharge claims filed against Pacifica. Exclusively. Insurance companies tend to like skarky law firms that win and when you get sued frivolously as many times as Pacifica does, the insurance company wants the best.

I understand why the CWA is nervous, but they are being paranoid. Pacifica was using Jackson-Lewis during the LAST negotiation in 2010(and JL never got near the bargaining table and the CWA got an unremarkable contract. It will not be any different this time.

Call off the dogs, as they say. There is no story here.

at 10:21 am on Sun, Mar 18, 2012Posted by KPFA Worker

It is well-documented that Pacifica is using Jackson Lewis on at least four cases that are not under the control of Pacifica’s insurance carrier—in other words, Pacifica has chosen to use the firm, not had the firm imposed on it.

We also understand that Pacifica recently put Jackson Lewis on a general retainer.

What does it matter whether it was Pacifica’s insurance carrier that initially hired Jackson Lewis? Pacifica has repeatedly chosen to expand its use of the nation’s top union-busting firm. It’s a gross misuse of listener dollars and a threat to Pacifica’s unions.

And, just so readers know, the person above is posting deceptively as “KPFA Worker” using our name and email address. It is probably the same person who has squatted several internet sites that mimic KPFAWorker and SaveKPFA.

The real KPFA Worker is a coalition of unpaid and paid staff, along with union and community supporters. We invite you to visit us at to sign up for our newsletter, or send a message of solidarity.

at 1:16 pm on Mon, Mar 19, 2012Posted by The real KPFAworker

I’m not surprised to read about union busters joining union friendly websites and posing as our friends. It’s easy to do. What better way to spread mis-information and demoralize the workers. Stay strong brothers and sisters. We are with you. I’m not a lawyer, but I can see what is going on. If a simple guy like me can figure it out, thousands of our brothers and sisters can too! We see through the friendly smiles and the “want a cup of coffee?” talk. First they try that. Then the subtle threats begin. Pacifica is ours. Let’s throw out these imposters!

at 4:01 pm on Mon, Mar 19, 2012Posted by Joseph Hancock

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