Monday, August 5, 2013

Dog ate my phone...

Posted to the BlueBoard by Solomon - August 5, 2013:

This is what a staff member posted this morning in the Facebook group "Pissed Off WBAI Workers."

"So its Monday, August 5, 5 days since we might be laid off. No word from anyone about anything. Can't reach the gm - something about broken or stolen phone. Guess we should grateful the fucks keep paying us but this feels like construction work, you work today, but not tomorrow. Fuck them and their fucking in competence. The head honcho is in town, no explanation for canceling the meeting Friday, not a dicky bird, and thinks the Union is just there for her schedule, ass, so unknown about the follow up meeting. All of this is just goddamn abusive to staff, and the head honcho wants to keep that dick wad gm still on - that makes her look insane. All politicians eventually have to make a choice between their careers and their strange friends. Her time is coming. But will there even be a station left by then?"

I, Solomon, am disgusted by Berthold's ploy of pretending to have lost his phone for a week or more. That wouldn't be believable from a 13-year-old, much less a grown-ass man who supposedly manages a multi-million-dollar nonprofit and is in the midst of a major management crisis that requires significant communication. If he's going to take the low road (as he obviously is), at least man up and own it. Just say, "sorry, I have decided to institute a communications blackout. Good luck with that whole layoff thing." Don't insult people by pretending your decisions are attributable to fate or bad luck or some bullshit. Unbelievable.

I just hope that his behavior is documented online so that when he is fired (as he will inevitably be), the first thing future potential employers will find in a Google search will be candid descriptions of his management performance.


  1. Management has consistently updated the staff that WBAI will be losing 12 of its current (and already greatly reduced) 19.5 FTEs, and that all -- ALL -- paid on-air producers, including the WBAI News, and several engineers and announcers will lose their salaries. This has been communicated for the past 2 months. Pacifica and WBAI management are scheduled again to meet with the union this week.

    This has been communicated repeatedly, and the layoffs have been pushed back quite a few times, now. Please note: I do not support ANY permanent layoffs for the financial reasons cited -- and particularly that of the WBAI News team -- but there has been no lack of communication about any of this, and there have been quite a few public meetings (including last week's open-to-all financial committee meeting).

    How about those producers (such as the one writing above) offering ways to raise funds to make the station sustainable, and going out and implementing those plans?

    How about those producers (such as the one writing above) assisting those of us who have been trying to raise funds but who are too narcissistic to help out, even as we lowly peons set up efforts and volunteer to try to raise funds to pay THEIR salaries?

    Mitchel Cohen

    1. Thank you Mitchel.

      At this point, I don't think there is much incentive to start a new fundraising approach. It took them long enough, but I think even some of his non-inner circle boosters now realize that Berthold Reimers has been and continues to be an unmitigated disaster. I have been saying that for a very long time, as you know, and received all kinds of personal insults and accusations from his minions, but that now seems to have abated.

      Yes, the fact that layoffs will occur has been communicated, but the devil is in the details, and the details were not let loose, so they grew into rumors and dire speculation, Reimers or Reese ought to have gone on the air and laid out the situation in a professional, honest manner. There ought also to have been a written statement to the staff. Mind you, there are several paid employees whose departure, in my opinion, will benefit the station, but everybody who is directly affected is owed a frank, direct status report.

      We are told that laid-off staffers had better show up for work or they will be regarded as having quit their job—that is outrageous!

  2. Let me add that at last week's open-to-all LSB finance committee meeting, management updated us on the current situation and stayed for a pretty thorough question-and-answer period. I believe that only one staff member chose to grace us with their presence.

    1. That does not surprise me, considering the behavior of management and the mistrust Reimers and his cronies have generated.

  3. I was surprised to see that paid staffing levels were as high as they were. What were paid staffing levels at the time you managed, Chris?

    ~ Indigo Pirate

    1. I don't recall off-hand, but I have the exact figures in my old WBAI file, so I will get back to you on that. As I recall,the paid staff numbered about 25 people. My own annual salary was $12,000, so nobody was getting rich, even in the mid-Sixties. But I'll look for the salary list—I may even have posted it here, so I'll check the blog first.

      I can tell you one thing: npbody got paid for sitting around or serving themselves—we all worked hard, and—as far as I could tell—loved it.

  4. This discussion, as so many others in the present context, is purely hypothetical, but...

    1) Has anyone a handle on typical pay levels for paid staff during, say, the late-1960's/early-1970's period?

    2) Has anyone a handle on typical comparable paid staff levels today?

    Exceedingly hypothetical: It would seem to me that it ought be possible to function at a high professional level with about a dozen full-time salaried positions for critical functions, with some part-timers and any number of 'volunteer' and 'trainee' producers and technical folks.

    It's inconceivable that the present fools might manage that in anything other than the most shambolic fashion conceivable, but I suspect it ought be possible – hypothetically.

    I don't pretend to be the pope, hence no claims of infallibility whether speaking on a blog or ex cathedra, but I'm curious if this seems sane or not?

    ~ IndigoPirate

  5. Well, it raises an interesting question -- one that other progressive, non-commercial not-for-profits have to face as well: Should staff at, say, a non-commercial, listener-funded radio station be paid at all -- especially those who are on-the-air, and if so, should they be allowed to unionize?

    I don't ask that rhetorically; it is a legitimate question. If your recall, the handful of workers at Multinational Monitor in the early 1980s blasted Ralph Nader for opposing their unionizing efforts. Ralph felt at the time (not sure what he believes today) that there should be no right to unionize at small not-for-profit projects.

    On the other hand, while staff salaries (plus benefits) accounted at WBAI for around $1.5 million per year -- which IS a lot of money for the station in current circumstances -- we really can't say that that's the reason for WBAI's downfall. The station has been unsustainable for around 10 years, at least. Perhaps giving the staff a greater share in earmarking and deciding how to allocate funds for staff, would be one approach. Just thinking aloud, not coming to any conclusions here about that.


  6. Hi Mitchel,

    In the commercial world, no one makes as little money as newsreaders and broadcast DJs. Usually, it's for the ego driven who have other sources of income. Very few people in the media, be you journalist, newsreader, etc. make very much money. I'm sad people are losing their jobs, but this should not be a surprise to anyone. Most of the staff should have seen the writing on the wall and moved on. I am disturbed that so many hold the failed belief that their paychecks are just being held back by mean people, rather than face the truth that WBAI hasn't been sustainable for years. If you don't have listeners, you change the programming. That should have been done years ago.

    Kevin White

  7. I’m just spitballing on this as well – in any event it’s clear that (mis)management at both Pacifica and WBAI are the core problems, so this is very much a hypothetical discussion.

    I’ll note that, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the whole union notion was a last minute desperation move generated at the final meetings in Margot’s living room which immediately preceded the final confrontation involving the shut down of the transmitter and the occupation of the station.

    The appeal of the idea was twofold:

    An amorphous group of neurotic leftist-progressives (many of them severely talented) was unable to even approach anything resembling a plan of approach, and proved essentially incapable of organizing themselves into truly functional lines of authority and decision-making (there were lots and lots and lots of committees to discuss this that and everything else) and in this context the romantic idea of Union! seemed appealing.

    There was an inchoate hope that the magic of unionizing would frighten the board and management, since unions were sacred – in this sense the notion of union was clutched at in the hope it might provide magical power both to unify the 150+ people involved in those early meetings and to magically deal with management and the board which had put that management in place.

    I mention this historical background simply to point out that the actual utility of a union in the context of BAI was never meaningfully analyzed.

    As I also mentioned previously, the one (well-regarded and talented) staff member with real world meaningful union organizing experience was essentially ignored as incoherence and endless expressions of personal angst dominated meetings.


    It certainly seems to me that current salary expenditures are insane.

    Immediately preceding the Crisis there were, I would say, about a dozen critical full-time paid positions.

    Other paid positions were a small number of part-time engineers/announcers.

    Other positions were independent unpaid producers. various volunteers, and interns.

    It was expected that if you cared about producing good radio you’d want to learn to run your own board, edit, etc, to a high standard.

    People who held themselves in sufficiently high self-regard that they couldn’t be bothered to engineer themselves, eg, Lopate, were held in general contempt in that respect.

    So, frankly, the structure that evolved with respect to the number of paid positions seems to me problematic.

    I emphasize that management – both Pacifica and WBAI – are the key problem, the real problem, and I emphasize, too, that I’m a strong supporter of unions where they’re necessary and/or make sense – I think the current state of unionization in the US is a disgrace and an abomination. I felt that the union (pun intended) of SAG and AFTRA was much to be desired, and I was and am delighted it was brought off – and I look forward to the possibility of Equity being brought into the union of unions in future as that possibility is explored and negotiated.

    So, I’m pro union… but I don’t know that it’s been helpful for BAI’s situation – though that’s impossible to analyze clearly since that question is interwoven with the key problems derivative of catastrophic choice, general dithering, and spectacular incompetence on the part of boards and management.

    I think, then (hypothetically) that the place could function and function well with drastically reduced staffing expenditures.

    Then again, I can tell you how to reorganize and drastically reduce US ‘defense’ expenditures, too.

    Neither is likely to happen, unfortunately.

    Still, if only as solace it’s nice at times to remember that it’s (hypothetically) possible.

    Reality, though, as we all know, bites.

    ~ Indigo Pirate