" . . . I was FORCED OUT. I was left with no choice I reported unfair treatment, favoritism, abuse and hostile working conditions on the Flashpoints program perpetrated by Executive Producer Dennis Bernstein and I was met with complete disrespect, and disregard when I reported the abuse to the General Manager, Roy Campenella."
Echeverría's letter goes on to state:
Campanella made it clear he was not going to take any effective action, telling Echeverría not to come back for three weeks because it would make Bernstein uncomfortable! With no other recourse, Solange left her job at KPFA, becoming just the most recent of a long line of women producers to be forced off Flashpoints.
Not the First Complaint Against Bernstein
Hanrahan was "banned" from KPFA after filing complaints of sexual harassment and gender discrimination by Bernstein and insisting that they be fairly investigated. (The full text of the complaint can be seen here.)
Many of you know Noelle from her radio segments on Purple Berets' work, including pieces on Teresa Macías, Claire Joyce Tempongko, and Debi Zuver. Noelle also directs Prison Radio, producing the commentaries of Death Row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, heard weekly by more than 1 million listeners around the world.
Hanrahan is a three-time winner of the Golden Reel Award, one of public radio's highest honors. She was first hired as co-host of Flashpoints in 1997. At that time, in the middle of an on-air interview, Bernstein muted her microphone and screamed, "Don't you dare ask another fucking question." Soon afterward, Noelle stepped down as Flashpoints co-host.
She was re-hired in July 2000 as a temporary producer, then elevated to Flashpoints co-host a year later. Bernstein's harassment began almost immediately. According to the lawsuit, in October 2001 Bernstein informed her, "I'm going to torture you until you quit or I force you to leave." Previously, the complaint goes on, Bernstein had warned that he had been coached by KPFA lawyers on how to "beat" any sexual harassment complaint. Hanrahan informed General Manager Bennett of the incident, attributing the actions to sexual harassment and sex discrimination.
In one incident, a master tape of an interview Hanrahan was preparing to air on the Tempongko case was erased, apparently in order to sabotage her work and force her to resign.
Throughout this period, Bennett and others conducted no investigation and took no effective disciplinary action against Bernstein, despite repeated requests. At one point the complaint states that Bennett informed her, "If you file a grievance it will only get a lot worse." "There are no disciplinary complaints against you," Bennett continued, "but if you persist in your grievance, there will be."
On November 20, 2001, Bernstein verbally attacked Hanrahan on the air, informing listeners she had made false allegations against him and was trying to take over the radio program, encouraging listeners to call KPFA and call for her
Soon afterward, management demoted Hanrahan, allotting her only 40% of the Flashpoints program. Less than three months later, she was placed on involuntary leave and banned from the KPFA building.
Since that time, Noelle has exhausted every avenue open to her for redress. Finally, despairing of any action by KPFA, her lawsuit was filed.
How Many Women Will It Take?
"The fact that women's voices are being silenced by gender-based harassment and intimidation is cause for deep concern," Noelle stated in an interview. "My every attempt to have my grievances addressed was met with retaliation and a wholesale cover-up. Sadly, I was left with no other option but to turn to the courts for redress."
Unfortunately, Solange Echeverría isn't likely to find General Manager Roy Campanella any more responsive than Jim Bennett was to Hanrahan's reports. Hired by KPFA last November, Campanella already has a number of sexual harassment complaints against him.
Violent, Hostile Environment
Just days after Echeverría left, a flyer from "Anonymous to Anonymous" was posted all around the station. The leaflet attacked Solange and the co-workers who have defended her.
Hanrahan too has been the target of venomous e-mails and web postings, which escalated recently when news of her lawsuit hit the press.
But while women who complain of harassment and abuse by Bernstein are fired or forced out, male KPFA employees who are physically violent are not.
This tolerance of male violence in and around the workplace only heightens the hostile environment for women at the station, especially when one of the perpetrators is the general manager! Add to that KPFA's refusal to investigate and discipline acts of sexual harassment and discrimination, and it's no wonder many talented women producers have left.
Loyalty to the station goes deep. In 1999, KPFA was shut down in mid-broadcast, then padlocked as corporate raiders and the organized right-wing staged what can only be called a coups d'etat. Thousands of KPFA listeners (Purple Berets among them) picketed, got arrested, and organized for more than two years to wrest the station back into community hands.
Unfortunately, that attack by the right has caused supporters and station insiders to "circle the wagons" in the face of any criticism of the station, no matter how legitimate. No doubt, the concerted political attack has contributed to the air of secrecy that permeates KPFA affairs, and fostered flaming hate-campaigns against anyone who dares to criticize.
But if we can't hold "The Left" accountable, what hope do we have for accountability in more mainstream institutions? If progressives are willing to tolerate harassment, discrimination and retaliation so virulent that dedicated women broadcasters are hounded from the air, where will we hear the voices of feminists and women in struggle?
Demands for Change
The current tolerance of violence and abuse is destroying women’s careers and only weakens KPFA. We urge women to join with us to make it stronger.
Together, organizing inside and outside the station, we can make our community radio station a safe and productive place for women to work and create.