"The Voice of the People"
In August 2006, Prometheus collaborated with PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste - Treeplanters and Farmworkers United of the Northwest), for our tenth radio station barnraising to build KPCN-LP Woodburn, OR. Local volunteers from Portland’s KBOO and Indymedia were joined by national and international volunteers from Central and South America, and gathered in the Willamette Valley of Oregon to make a long-standing dream of PCUN’s come true!
PCUN’s mission is to offer support and fight for the rights of the employees of the Willamette Valley’s many farms - employees who generally work long hours for low wages, with no overtime pay, paid breaks, seniority, job security, or other benefits. Seasonal workers are often housed in squalid labor camps owned and operated by growers or labor contractors, and are often exposed to a variety of pesticides that are used to protect the crops.
For the past twenty years, PCUN had wanted to have a radio station of their own. They started out paying $250 for an hour long program on an AM radio station in Woodburn. PCUN used their radio program to organize demonstrations and mobilize farmworkers and supporters for their various campaigns. However, due to local politics and in breech of PCUN’s contract, PCUN’s program was taken off the air immediately after a listener informed the radio station owner (who was an acquaintance of a local grower) of the contents of PCUN’s program.
Outraged by the lack of the AM station’s adherence to their contract, PCUN filed a law suit against the radio station and won, which allowed them to remain on the air for two more weeks. During those two weeks, PCUN informed their listeners that they’d be moving their radio program to Portland’s own KBOO. PCUN’s program on KBOO’s airwaves was a huge success in Portland, and PCUN found themselves organizing events there.
Although PCUN was glad to move its listeners to action, they found themselves getting stretched too thin to be as effective as they could’ve been in their hometown of Woodburn (which is thirty minutes south of Portland). “We had to rethink the program on KBOO, and we decided we’d have to discontinue it and bring our energy and focus back to Woodburn”, said Ramon Ramirez- President of PCUN. So when they had an opportunity to go for a local LPFM in Woodburn, PCUN focused their efforts on starting a station there.
But those weren’t the only lessons learned when it came to the value of owning your own media outlet. PCUN had approached the Spanish television giant Univision to place an ad promoting the Day of Immigrants Rights on May 1, 2006. The nationwide call to action asked that demonstrators NOT go to work, to school, or make any purchases on that day as an act of solidarity with the thousands of other demonstrators across the country. PCUN was told that they could buy an ad, but that Univision wanted to censor the content of the ad. PCUN knew that they needed to have a place where they could not only promote but control their message.
PCUN has since used their radio station, KPCN, as an organizing tool to further their strategizing efforts in winning rights for the farmworkers who feed us all. PCUN, which is an umbrella organization for several other local groups in Woodburn, has involved those groups in the programming of KPCN. Their current programming schedule offers a wide array of shows: there are LGBTQ community discussions, a women’s talk show covering issues around health and well-being as well as domestic abuse, a show geared towards the music and traditions of Oaxaca, and an interview-styled show that seeks to inspire listeners with stories from the human rights movement.
Prometheus was honored to work closely with PCUN and KPCN as they fulfilled their mission to be the Voice of The People through the power of radio.
What could your community do with its own radio station?
For fifteen years, Prometheus has been helping to expand the field of community radio - through our advocacy and policy work, through demystifying the bureaucratic process of applying for a license, and through building community radio stations. With your support today, we can do even more during the next wave of licensing.
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