Democracy at WBAI saved: Pacifica bylaws referendum fails

At a time when people the world over are struggling for the right to determine their futures through the ballot, and as they fight moneyed classes or armed forces wanting to silence their voices, we are thrilled to report that the most recent attempt to end member-democracy in Pacifica was just defeated.

  • Staff rejected the “New Day” proposal by 58.6% to 41.4%, a 17 point difference,
  • A smaller majority of listeners supported the “New Day” proposal by 56% to 44%, a 12 point difference.

While levels of knowledge and involvement vary within any group, staff and listeners are clearly distinct from each other, and constitute separate voting “classes.” Under our bylaws, members must approve some amendments, including changes that affect one class of members in a way that is adverse and is different from the other class. There was also a memorandum of agreement between Pacifica Foundation and the bylaws revision advocates to enable the vote to proceed, which specified the election would be conducted under the rules that had governed the previous attempt to replace the bylaws just a year ago, which specified the need for separate approval by both listener members and staff members. Further, California law governing not-for-profit organizations also requires that any change that affects a class of people must be approved by them.

Both classes of members, listener-donors and staff (paid and unpaid) were affected differently, and did not agree to the proposed changes, so the referendum failed.

The reason for honoring the staff vote is clear: No majority can take away the rights of others. Staff, united in a single class of membership under the current bylaws, had clearly defined rights and responsibilities under the existing bylaws, including substantial representation on Local Station Boards with oversight responsibilities over management, and representation from every station staff on the national board of Pacifica. Only the staff themselves could waive or abandon those rights; nobody else had or has the power to abrogate them.

We will see if this second failed attempt at replacing the bylaws will educate the proponents on their approach, or whether they will, as threatened, sue to strip away staff rights, and local elected oversight, in their efforts to rule the foundation and marginalize or eliminate community oriented and community based radio.