Tensions came to a head just before Thanksgiving, at an open meeting of the radio station’s board, when Abrahams took issue with Abbas yet again. Dozens of Postville residents showed up to support Abbas. After making a plea for editorial independence, Abbas requested some sort of personal financial assistance. “I need to get myself out of the hole,” Abbas told the crowd, his hands folded before him.

Nina Taylor, the station’s treasurer, has been one of Abbas’s supporters, but she politely expressed discomfort with the position that Abbas’s work had put her and the other board members in. “There’s no guideline or directions on how to deal with this,” Taylor told me in an interview, “so everyone is kind of creating it as we go along.” Soon after the meeting, Taylor resigned her position, citing the stress of the work.

The board did come up with a bit of money to tide Abbas over, and town officials took over much of the rescue work for the struggling former slaughterhouse workers that Abbas had been doing. (When Agriprocessors filed for bankruptcy, Abbas spearheaded an effort to provide them with basic relief, turning the KPVL studios into a food bank and working the phones in an effort to keep the electricity and water on in the workers’ apartments.) On Christmas, Abbas took his first day off since Christmas the year before.

But the tension remains. Abbas has kept up his on-air commentary, and the board continues to deny him a regular paycheck. In February, Abbas applied for food stamps. He also contacted a lawyer to help him fight for a portion of a grant that KPVL got from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

“I’m almost fifty-five years old,” Abbas said. “There’s nothing else I can do. There’s nothing else I want to do.” 

Nathaniel Popper is a senior writer at The Forward.