Feds slap a huge fine on UFW radio broadcaster

The Federal Communications Commission has levied a record fine” against the UFW’s hundred million-dollar social service affiliate that broadcasts farmworker radio stations in California and Arizona, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Admitting guilt for illegally running commercial advertising, the Cesar Chavez Foundation, which runs the radios, “agreed to a one-year moratorium on new underwriting from for-profit sponsors on the two stations,” according to the Times. The Cesar Chavez Foundation agreed to pay a $115,000 fine.

The two stations are KUFW-FM (90.5) in Woodlake, and KNAI-FM (88.3) in Phoenix, Arizona. The violations occurred repeatedly from August, 2016, to March, 2017. The offenders are part of the Campesina Network of eight pro-UFW radios stations. Rather than simply acknowledging corporate sponsors as other nonprofit broadcasters like NPR do, the UFW stations made commercial pitches for them to generate profits.

Big moneymaker for Chavez family & cronies

The Cesar Chavez Foundation is a big moneymaker for the family of the late UFW founder and their cronies. Chavez family-run broadcasting enterprises have been slapped with federal fines and penalties before, but the amounts are tiny compared to the Cesar Chavez Foundation’s $100,000,000 war chest.

The foundation rakes in $39,000,000 a year, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“The UFW talks a good game about helping farmworkers, but as it distances itself from the plight of workers who truly need collective bargaining, the UFW looks sleazier and sleazier,” Pick Justice reported last fall. “Some critics call the UFW and its constellation of companies, radios, and foundations, a business empire of César Chávez’s heirs and their cronies.”

“The FCC knows a lot about KUFW’s revenue-generating activities,” attorney David A. Schwarz wrote in the Weekly Standard.

“How could Radio Campesina hope to turn its history of violations into the grant of another valuable commercial broadcast license?” asked Schwarz.

Everything Arturo Rodriguez touches – from the UFW that he leads, to the Cesar Chavez Foundation & Radio Campesina – looks tainted with sleaze.

Repeat offender

KUFW was fined $12,500 in 2010 over similar violations, according to FCC records. It also was required to repay nearly $400,000 to the Corp. for Public Broadcasting in 2013 after an audit revealed accounting irregularities involving restricted grants to the station,” according to the LA Times.

“The Farmworker Educational Radio Network, a for-profit corporation owned by the Cesar Chavez Foundation, agreed last December to pay $20,000 to the FCC over unauthorized broadcasting blackouts and failure to maintain proper records at KRIT-FM (93.9) in Parker, Ariz.,” the Times said.

Cesar Chavez Foundation calls it a ‘learning experience’

The Cesar Chavez Foundation showed no contrition in its admission of wrongdoing.

Instead, it appeared to brush off the whole things as a big misunderstanding. “This has been a learning experience for the organization, and as we move forward in polarizing times, we will continue being a voice for our community,” the Cesar Chavez Foundation said.

Another big victory for Gerawan

“One of the complaints about the radio spots came from an attorney for Gerawan Farming Inc., a fruit grower and packer in the San Joaquin Valley that has been locked in a decades-long battle with the UFW over representation of its workers, according to FCC documents,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Another blow to Equitable Food Initiative

The FCC fine is yet another blow to the Equitable Food Initiative, a UFW-chaired project to certify that produce suppliers are ethical and compliant with certain quality and safety standards. #EquitableFood has come under fire as a front for the UFW certifying itself, and channeling big retailers like Costco to show preference for the UFW’s dwindling labor presence. Some growers are learning that the Equitable Food Initiative is hurting their brands. 

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