Protest outside KPFA last week

The executive director of the Pacifica Foundation laid off the staff of KPFA’s popular The Morning Show on Monday as part of a cost cutting measure.

Arlene Englehardt laid off co-hosts Aimee Allison and Brian Edwards-Tiekert on Monday and informed them by letter that they would be paid through Dec. 8.

“We come to you this morning with a heavy heart,” co-host Aimee Allison told KPFA listeners at 7 am this morning at what may be the last broadcast of The Morning Show. “Yesterday the Pacifica Foundation fired the entire staff.”

But Englehardt, who was a featured guest on an “unorthodox” Morning Show hosted by Aileen Alfendary, one of KPFA’s paid news staffers, said the station would continue to produce a morning news show. She did not specify who would host the show.

The cuts had to be made because KPFA lost $1 million in 2009-2010, is on track to lose $500,000 this year, and cannot make payroll, said Englehardt. It follows protests by KPFA employees on November 4 over staff cuts.

“We are greatly concerned about how we are going to keep this station going,” said Englehardt. “KPFA is in dire financial straits. The station is not operating in a sound fiscal manner.”

Some KPFA members dispute this and argue that Pacifica Foundation actually owes KPFA money since they have space rent-free in the Berkeley building. They also say that the board of the Pacifica Foundation spends money recklessly on board meetings and other managerial matters.

On Monday, the Communications Workers of America, the union representing KPFA staff, filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the Pacifica Foundation with the National Labor Relations Board. The CWA accused Pacifica of not bargaining in good faith. They have also said Englehardt violated KPFA’s contract by firing individuals rather than eliminating positions.

There will be a protest against the layoffs outside KPFA on Martin Luther King at 11 am today.

The conversation on The Morning Show Tuesday morning was a free for all, with people interrupting and contradicting one another. Edwards-Tiekert and Allison were replaced as hosts by Alfendary, although they appeared as guests on the show. Englehardt came in and out of the studio and was continuously interrupted and contradicted by CWA staff. At one point she said “I don’t think this is very good radio.”

But the free flowing exchange on The Morning Show also reflected the passions and contradictions that have been a hallmark of KPFA. It is a station with fiercely devoted listeners, a progressive political viewpoint, and intense internal partisan bickering.

The future of The Morning Show is not yet clear, but Englehardt said on the air Tuesday that it would be replaced by two shows produced at the Pacifica Station KPFK in Los Angeles, “Sojourner Truth” and “Uprising.”

One piece of information that had vexed KPFA supporters came to light on Tuesday’s unorthodz broadcast. Englehardt told listeners that she made $90,000 a year, “which is a low figure for the kind of job I do.”

Last week, the co-hosts of The Morning Show had asked her to disclose her salary, which is a public figure since Pacifica is a non-profit organization. Englehardt refused to do it at that time.

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...