International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) member Ron Gonyea never planned on becoming a Houston radio talk show host. Like millions of Americans, Gonyea wanted to hear a point of view not reflected in the choice of local radio stations—one that illustrates concerns of working people.
In 2002, Gonyea, who describes himself as basically an activist—"I search for rallies and picket lines to go on," he says—joined rallies in support of Pacifica radio network employees. The workers were engaged in a bitter fight with management for direction of the progressive, nationwide radio network, and Gonyea’s support of the KPFT employees caught their attention.
"KPFT didn't see union members as activists until I started going to their rallies," says Gonyea. While joining with Pacifica supporters, Gonyea encouraged them to launch a local radio program. After the workers won their struggle, the local station talked with Harris County Central Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Richard Shaw and offered Gonyea his own labor show. "They told me, 'if you don’t do it, it isn’t going to happen.' " Together with Teamsters member Tim Pagel, Gonyea produced and hosted a series of bi-weekly daytime specials. After the third special, KPFT's Program Director at the time, Otis McClay secured a place on the weekly Friday evening schedule for "Voices At Work".
But if unions hadn't reached out to the community, the show never would have materialized. Union members "have to get involved with other groups, social justice groups. First help them with something, then it’s a whole lot easier" to seek their support, says Gonyea.
Once Voices At Work became a regular part of the Houston and Galveston airwaves, the members of the show also produce and host an annual Labor Day special on KPFT. The Labor Day special is more of a celebration of the working class and a look back on our struggles.