BBG Watch Commentary
From the firing of Radio Liberty journalists in Russia to the illegal RIF of OCB broadcasters, BBG Watch continues to document enormous human suffering under the management culture of the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).
This story comes from a former Radio/TV Marti journalist Salvador Blanco who, we are told, is one of the most beloved personalities in Cuba because of his status as a former political prisoner.
In late 2009 the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) conducted a reduction in force (RIF) and sixteen employees represented by AFGE Local 1812 at Radio/TV Marti were thrown out of work. The employees believed that the RIF was orchestrated by the management in charge at that time in order to retaliate against employees who had reported wrong-doing at the OCB to the Congress and the Inspector General.
The Union filed a grievance and in 2010 which eventually wound up in arbitration. In 2011, in an 85-page decision, Arbitrator Suzanne Butler found that the RIF was conducted unnecessarily and that, in fact, the management and the Agency had conducted the RIF for retaliatory reasons. Arbitrator Butler ordered that the employees be rehired and that they be provided with back pay. At this point, the OCB, with assistance from officials of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) appealed the decision to the Federal Labor Relations Board (FLRA) which again ruled against the OCB and upheld the Arbitrator’s decision. Instead of implementing Arbitrator Butler’s decision, Agency officials then appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia although there is no avenue to appeal this decision to the Court. In the meantime, the employees must wait for the Court to make a ruling that indeed, the Court does not have jurisdiction. The affected employees have been out of their jobs for nearly four years.
During the arbitration, Agency officials claimed that there was no malice directed against these employees and that the RIF was just an unfortunate necessity. Since the time they were RIFed, several of the employees deprived of their livelihood by what the Arbitrator ruled was an illegally-conducted RIF have fallen upon hard times. Some have applied numerous times for positions for which they were qualified with both the OCB and the Voice of America (VOA) only to be turned down for the positions. Attached to all sixteen of the broadcasters involved in that unnecessary reduction-in-force in 2009, there is a human story.
By Salvador Blanco, OCB RIFed Employee
I am an ex-political prisoner who served time in Cuba’s jails. But that doesn’t matter. I have exhibited 13 documentaries on human rights violations in Cuba and around the world, and the threat of populism in Latin America and in the United States, among others. These documentaries have been played in world venues including the Human Rights Commission in Geneva year after year. But that doesn’t matter. I am equally comfortable as an anchor, reporter, field and line producer, cameraman, editor. But that doesn’t matter, either.
Before I went to work for the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) – petitioned by none other than its then-director, Pedro Roig – I owned Salvador Productions. With an innate, insatiable thirst to fight for the freedom of the Cuban people, I accepted the job at the OCB for the “love of my country.” My business was booming. I had accounts with different national and international media outlets like ESPN, TV Globo (Brazil), Canal 10 (Australia), BBC, Telemundo, Univision, car manufacturing giants such as Ford, Toyota, and Chevrolet. I also produced work for political campaigns. I thought to myself, “As a federal employee, I can provide my family with excellent benefits like health insurance and retirement.” According to focus groups, I always had positive feedback and even fared outstanding in the annual, federal worker evaluations. But that doesn’t matter, either.
The OCB continues to hire contractors and create jobs for which all of the RIFed employees are qualified, and have not been given any priority. The Agency’s actions continue to apparently violate federal laws. But that doesn’t matter, either.
It’s really my fault for believing that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) would do right instead of allowing its qualified RIFed employees to live in a legal limbo, because of personal and political interests.
I would like to send a special shout-out to Victor Ashe, former BBG governor, and commend him on his honesty and solidarity with the illegally-RIFed employees of the OCB. I, myself, join in solidarity with the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Russian Service employees who were brutally mistreated and also dismissed from their duties. And to Tim Shamble, AFGE Local 1812 President and Leisha Self, attorney extraordinaire, for their immeasurable talent and dedication to finding justice for all of us who were wronged!
We, the RIFed employees of the OCB/TV Marti, have won two legal cases against the BBG. That Does Matter!
The BBG continues to wage a losing battle against justice. What do they care? They’re not reaching into their own pockets to pay for this drawn-out legal process. Apparently, that doesn’t matter, either.
The real loss is to the citizens of this great country who pay taxes. Ultimately, the monies will come out of your pockets! And that definitely matters!
BBG Governor Victor Ashe accuses top agency officials of wasting taxpayers’ money, prolonging hardships of RIFed employees