BBG Watch Commentary
The union representing the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employees, AFGE Local 1812, has been pointing out again and again that BBG executives and lawyers are wasting millions of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars by refusing to settle employee discrimination cases in which arbitrators and judges had already ruled multiple times that the agency was at fault.
The same point has also been made publicly by BBG member Ambassador Victor Ashe. Some of the other BBG members agree with him.
BBG executives at the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) have perfected the system of limiting employee rights even when court cases go against them. They had practiced with impunity their sinister approach to labor relations also at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) until the institution imploded. Radio Liberty journalists in Russia were fired without any warning, security guards were used against them, and broadcasters were not permitted to say good bye to their radio and online audience of many years. No wonder that the entire human rights community in Russia turned against these American executives.
It may not be a good news for IBB executives and lawyers to know that the man chosen by the BBG to lead RFE/RL out of this mess, the new acting president Kevin Klose, was a strong proponent of settling the famous Hartman case in favor of women who had been discriminated by the agency when he became IBB director in the late 1990s. He was also at that time opposed by some of IBB’s executives, but his point of view eventually prevailed. Back at RFE/RL and with the full support of the majority of BBG members, Kevin Klose is now replacing managers who had conducted the firing operation in Moscow. He is also working on bringing the unjustly fired journalists back, sources told BBG Watch.
BBG members are becoming increasingly frustrated with the IBB bureaucracy and are beginning to pay closer attention to what IBB’s executive staff is doing and not doing. They are looking for new managers and lawyers who know how to lead employees, win their trust, and treat them with respect and dignity.
Same Old Sad Song Off-Key at the BBG
by American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1812
The Hartman v. Albright case may have cost U.S. taxpayers some 500 million dollars in 2001, but Agency Executives were able to simply shrug and move on. They were protected by legal immunity granted to public servants in their official duties. For those who may not remember the Hartman case or need a refresher, please read a synopsis here: See: http://www.wfcplaw.com/hartman-class-action
In the past 10 years, Agency managers, far from reforming, have pursued the same pattern of futile legal maneuvering and delays in cases brought against the Agency. For example, the case of the employees of the former VOA Arabic Service who were forced to sue In U.S. District court when they were illegally passed over for employment at Radio Sawa in favor of less qualified foreign aliens hired by the new BBG entities called the Middle East Broadcasting Network that replaced the VOA Arabic Service. Their lawsuit was settled for over $600,000 not including legal fees. The union office has a copy of that court decision if you are interested.
And now, it’s the same old, same old stalling tactics with another case where the Agency is facing millions of dollars in liability in the case of the U.S. citizens bypassed for promotions or employment, in violation of the Smith-Mundt Act which provides for priority hiring for U.S. citizens. But the Executive Staff has let it be known that it plans to drag the case all the way to the Supreme Court if need be just as they did with the Hartman case. Agency officials won’t have to pay the bill if they lose. The U.S. taxpayers, which include you and me, pick up the tab. They have let it be known that no matter what employees, a federal arbitrator, and the FLRA think Agency officials know best. At the same time, broadcasting employees are put in the position of touting the rule of law in the USA while the broadcasting managers continue to flout the law and legal decisions not in their favor every day of the week.
While they pursue the legal maneuvers mentioned above, down in Miami, at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, another case languishes on the vine as the Agency chooses to ignore yet another Arbitrator’s decision and that of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). The FLRA rejected all of the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ exceptions to Arbitrator Suzanne R. Butler’s decision in the Office of Cuba Broadcasting 2009 RIF (reduction-in-force) case involving illegal firings of OCB broadcasters. But the Agency Executive Staff has apparently told agency lawyers to continue to appeal that supposedly binding decision. The Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, along with the rest of the Agency Executives, refuse to honor the two judicial decisions which overwhelmingly supported the RIFed employees and to re-hire and compensate them for the unjustifiable lay-offs and hardship.
To long-term employees of the Agency, none of the above is a surprise. To them, it probably also explains why former RFE/Radio Liberty head, Steven Korn, felt so free in firing former employees of Radio Liberty’s Russian service. He could do it, he would do it and he did do it and he would be backed to the hilt by an Executive Staff heady with its own power. Never mind its devastating impact on U.S. foreign policy.
The problem, of course, is that in the end, the Broadcasting Board of Governors is an Agency of the United States Government, financed by the U.S. taxpayers. At some point, you would think, the Executive Staff will have to comprehend that the Agency is not its own private fiefdom and that they should be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money. As we look at the legal settlements and decisions of the past 12 years, we can see that the current Executive Staff just doesn’t get it and evidently prefers not to recognize any controls over their power.
Their “solution”? De-federalize VOA and OCB and give the bureaucrats full and absolute control over the fates of employees and taxpayers’ money.
It’s business at usual at the BBG which directs U.S. international broadcasting to the world for the country which has been called the “land of the free and home of the brave”.