BBG Watch Commentary

“While in Miami the lives of many honest, hardworking people are utterly destroyed, here in DC, management will continue scooping vanilla, chocolate or strawberry ice cream, instead of treating employees with dignity, fairness and respect.” – AFGE Local 1812 representing U.S. broadcasting employees commenting on management practices of their agency’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employee union, American Federation of Government Employees – AFGE Local 1812, noted how journalists and other media professionals employed by the agency in charge of U.S. international broadcasting continue to suffer injustice, humiliation and hardships at the hands of top officials of the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) who set management practices and determine how employees are being treated.

In terms of management skills of these leaders and employee morale at the agency, IBB has been rated for years at the very bottom in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

This 4th of July is not a happy time for many Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employees, but it is an especially bitter time for illegally fired media freedom journalists who reported to Cuba for the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) Radio and TV Marti.

Other journalists are also feeling the effects of management practices developed and refined by the current leadership of the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau. Independent American journalist Matthew Russell Lee almost lost his job as a reporter at the UN due to an action by a top VOA official. VOA officials continue their media attacks on former VOA journalists who criticize them.

But, of course, nothing compares to the hardships imposed by IBB on illegally fired Radio and TV Marti broadcasters. Some of them have lost their savings, their homes, their health, even their marriages.

Members of the bipartisan BBG Board reportedly have been pushing top IBB officials to quickly resolve the OCB RIF case, but they are, according to sources, being ignored on this and many other issues. IBB bureaucracy is out of control. It stood idly by as the former management of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) fired dozens of experienced human rights journalists in Putin’s Russia. BBG members had to step in and reverse that decision, but at this time they do not have enough votes and enough legal control over IBB’s top personnel and its actions in the United States.

This AFGE Local 1812 commentary explains why these IBB managers may think that they are beyond any scrutiny and accountability.

LET THEM EAT ICE CREAM

While the Agency is organizing ice cream socials in Washington, ostensibly to “improve” morale, down in Miami the illegally fired employees of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting have one more reason to lose their appetite. They have been waiting several years now for the Agency to reinstate them in their jobs, as an Arbitrator has ruled they should be and as the administrative tribunal, the FLRA, has upheld.

But while a few of their colleagues in Washington, DC, are enjoying the ice-cream cones and sundaes served up by the Agency, their own stomachs are churning while they lose their homes, stand by helpless as their careers are destroyed, and watch their family lives disintegrate.

The Arbitrator ruled that the RIF should be reversed and the Marti employees should be rehired and compensated.

But instead of complying with the ruling, the Agency has repeated the same behavior that cost U.S. taxpayers 500 million dollars in the Hartman v. Albright 2001 legal case; it has ignored the ruling and filed an appeal. In this case, the Agency appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals regarding the FLRA’s decision that upheld the Arbitrator’s ruling. Agency officials are now opposing the FLRA.

The FLRA has filed a motion to dismiss the Agency’s appeal but the Justice Department, taking over the Agency’s case, has filed an opposition to the FLRA’s motion. Why the Justice Department, funded with taxpayers’ money, is acting against the interests of the citizens who were illegally RIFed, is a whole other question. In concrete terms, these are legal maneuvers that delay the inevitable for the Agency — having to admit it was wrong, and compensating the illegally-fired employees in Miami.

In the short term, the Agency’s maneuver protects IBB management. As they delay, the day of reckoning is pushed back, ostensibly, to a day when these managers will be gone from the Agency – meaning they will not have to be held accountable or assume any of the consequences for the Agency’s illegal behavior. The U.S. taxpayer will have to pay — not the management officials responsible for these actions. Their retirements and bonuses will be safe. While in Miami the lives of many honest, hardworking people are utterly destroyed, here in DC, management will continue scooping vanilla, chocolate or strawberry ice cream, instead of treating employees with dignity, fairness and respect.

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