The governance board of peace-and-justice radio station WBAI, long split into opposing factions, has been immobilized by one group's boycott of meetings since the January 13 announcement of election results. Because of the boycott, the WBAI Local Station Board (LSB) has been unable to conduct business, even as the station is reeling from a continuing severe deficit and falling paid membership.

The elections by listener and staff members delivered a 12-12 tie between the Justice and Unity Campaign, a multi-racial, anti-racist coalition, and the "Indy Caucus," the latest incarnation of the group (previously called "ACE") that was responsible for firing longtime program director and Black community activist Bernard White in 2009. That move heightened division among staff and alienated a significant portion of the listenership.

Indy/ACE members controlled the board for more than seven years preceding this election; none have appeared at the meetings of the newly reconstituted board.

In a February 23 letter to the Pacifica National Board, the governing body of WBAI's parent foundation (updated version appended below), the 12 Justice and Unity local board members requested "action in the face of this continuing emergency." According to the letter, initiated by member Lynne Stewart, the prominent activist and former attorney who was the top vote-getter in the recent elections, "One of the opposition was actually overheard saying that there may be no LSB meetings for the next year.  Such a we-rule-or-we-ruin ideology has no place in a democratic process. . . . Together we must defeat this attack on the democratically constituted and elected WBAI Local Station Board."

 

The equal division of board members came about in part because of the automatic replacement in December of an Indy/ACE staff ally who had reached her term limit by a Justice and Unity–allied staffer. At its January 21 meeting, the national board affirmed that the Justice and Unity–allied staff member had been properly seated on the local board using the runner-up list of the last election, per the organization’s bylaws.

The full group was scheduled to meet on January 27 when Indy-ACE members called a meeting of their own on January 26, installed the staff member of their choice (the runner-up from the new election, whom the PNB had ruled could not be properly seated), declared themselves a quorum, and "elected" all 4 representatives to the Pacifica National Board. They then boycotted the January 27 meeting, so that, lacking a quorum, elections for neither local officers nor national board members could take place, although all 12 Justice and Unity members were present and ready.

When the PNB met on January 28 via its usual teleconference, Indy/ACE national board members whose terms had expired, along with those claiming to have been recently elected to the PNB, called in and disrupted the meeting by shouting, playing music, and making noises with their telephone keys. These antics were repeated on February 4.

Despite the interruptions, the National Board decided that the four men chosen in the irregular Indy/ACE meeting could not be seated on the national board, and approved a measure directing elections for WBAI’s national board representatives on the February 10, the Board’s next regularly scheduled meeting.

That evening, all 12 Justice and Unity board members attended. None from Indy/ACE appeared.

The Justice and Unity Campaign has launched an online petition (available at https://www.change.org/p/wbai-indy-ace-board-members-end-phony-boycott-step-up-or-step-aside ), urging Indy/ACE members to do their duty and attend Local Station Board meetings. The next such meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 9, at 7 PM at the ARC Senior Center, 120 West 140th St., between Malcolm X Blvd. & Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. in Harlem.

Justice and Unity is urging WBAI members to attend and speak out during the meeting's public-comment section.