BBG Watch Commentary
BBG Watch has learned that a Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) member told Committee for U.S. international Broadcasting Executive Director Ann Noonan today in Miami that the BBG will no longer challenge in courts the latest legal ruling in favor of RIFed Office of Cuba Broadcasting – Radio and TV Marti journalists who for several years have been trying to win their jobs back.
This statement was reportedly made to Ann Noonan after after she delivered a strong appeal in defense of RIFed OCB employees at the BBG Board meeting in Miami. A BBG decision not to challenge legal rulings in favor of OCB journalists was reportedly made before today’s BBG Board meeting but was not publicly announced at the meeting.
If the BBG indeed plans to honor legal rulings, OCB journalists who suffered enormous hardships may get their jobs back with back pay and benefits.
Ann Noonan and Ted Lipien from the Committee of U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB) had met with a group of dismissed OCB employees in Miami the day before attending the BBG Board meeting on Friday.
At the BBG Board meeting, Ann Noonan described in some detail personal hardships of RIFed OCB employees. These journalists not only lost their jobs. Some of them lost their savings, houses and cars. Most of them do not have and cannot afford health insurance.
A source told BBG a Watch that BBG Chairman Jeff Shell wanted to get the OCB legal case resolved.
STATEMENT BY CUSIB EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ANN NOONAN
BBG Open Board Meeting
June 20, 2014
Yesterday, Ted Lipien and I met with five of sixteen Americans who once worked for the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. On December 19, 2009 – just one week before Christmas, they were unceremoniously fired for an alleged Reduction in Force. None of the firings were done because of poor job performance nor any misdeeds of any of the workers. While their union, AFGE Local 1812 has been tremendous, the extreme adversarial-ness of the BBG’s legal department has left their lawsuit unresolved.
This topic has been brought up at former BBG meetings, but today, here in Miami, here at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, it seems fitting to implore the BBG Governors to put an end to this injustice.
At arbitration, the employees won at every point: reinstatement, back pay, and attorney’s fees. Nevertheless, the BBG appealed the decision. The FLRA upheld their decision. The BBG re-appealed to the US Circuit Court of Appeals in the in DC Circuit – which upheld the original arbitrator’s decision.
This vicious behavior of the BBG’s legal department has cost these journalists a lot. Their brand of journalism – unlike most forms – is more of a vocation. Instead of appearing on a priority list for RIF’ed employees, they have lost their careers and have been blacklisted by the BBG. Many are skilled in multimedia. The five people Ted Lipien and I met with – despite their multimedia skills – have applied for more than 80 vacant job postings at OCB and VOA for which they were more than qualified and were turned down.
Thanks to the BBG, these Americans have lost their homes, lost their cars, lost their 401k’s, sold their family business to help pay the bills, have been hospitalized because of stress and serious health issues, have lost their health insurance, cannot afford Obamacare, have no health insurance for themselves and their children.
These are people with families, and their families also suffer financial and emotional tolls. Their families witness their disheartened spouse or parent out of work in a tough job market. Their families are where a college-student on the Dean’s list drops out of college to help pay the bills.
While I’d like to believe that these former OCB employees were fired to save money, their replacements are contractors who get paid much, much more. Where 3 people could get a job done in the past, now it takes 10 people. Furthermore, the arbitrator found that rather than a legitimate reduction in force, these layoffs were in fact a bad faith plan to intimidate – if not, get rid of – internal critics.
Our meeting was heartbreaking. I wanted to cry. I urged each of these people to make a short video directly pleading their cases to the BBG Governors. If these videos do get aired, please watch them and listen to their stories and the cruelty they have endured by the BBG’s Legal Department.
I’d like you to realize that this unresolved lawsuit serves not only as a complete embarrassment for a federal agency in the United States whose mission is to report human rights cases, but it is also a clear example of why low morale plagues the BBG.
Changes at the BBG need to be made, and my suggestion today is that they begin in the Legal Department, and demand for the Legal to advise the Circuit Court that the BBG will not file any motions to re-argue nor to have the full court hear further appeal – and that instead that the agency will immediately honor the relief granted by the arbitrator.