BBG Watch Commentary
AFGE Local 1812
Is BBG, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, looking out for or exploiting its non-U.S. citizen employees?

It is well known, for example, that foreign-born (non-Czech and non-American) journalists and other staffers employed at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in Prague are denied by RFE/RL, with consent from the BBG, some of the protections of both Czech and American labor laws. We have seen how this cynical exploitation of Czech laws and the mentality behind it has allowed RFE/RL president Steven Korn and his top deputies Julia Ragona and Dale Cohen to destroy Radio Liberty’s brand and reputation in Russia because there were no checks on their brutal personnel actions against some of the station’s best journalists.

Is the Broadcasting Board of Governors also condoning similar personnel practices vis-à-vis its non-U.S. citizen employees in the United States?

The true answer to this question is well-known to BBG employees and perhaps to BBG members and the International Broadcasting Bureau executives as well. But the official management position, as with many other issues at the Agency, is at variance with reality. This commentary from the BBG employee union, AFGE Local 1812, explains how.

I Can’t Explain

by American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1812


In late November, Agency managers under IBB Director Richard Lobo’s and VOA Director David Ensor’s names issued a statement that, among other things, implied that Agency management was looking out for its non-U.S. citizen employees.

However, actions speak louder than words. AFGE Local 1812 has been in Contract negotiations for almost two years and among the proposals the Union put forward were provisions to provide non-U.S. citizen employees the ability to contest adverse actions to a third party. All the Union’s proposals regarding non-US citizen employees were uniformly rejected by management negotiators without offering any alternatives.

Union Local President Tim Shamble sent a letter to both Director Lobo and Director Ensor for an explanation of why the actions of their representatives at the bargaining table were diametrically opposed with their email message to all employees.

AFGE Local 1812 is still waiting for a response. Sometimes silence speaks volumes.

Here is the text of that letter:

Dear Directors Lobo and Ensor:

On November 21st and again on November 28th you released an email to all Agency employees that contained the following statement:

“Recognizing the unique and essential role of non-US citizens in producing high-quality programs, VOA has over the years developed and maintained employment policies for noncitizens that, to the extent practicable, parallel those of U.S. citizens.”

AFGE Local 1812 finds no fault with that goal and has made several proposals during the current round of negotiations that would enshrine employment policies for non-citizens that parallel those of U.S. citizens to the extent practicable in the current Negotiated Labor-Management Agreement.  It is with great regret that proposals from the Union have not been accepted, nor has the management bargaining team submitted a counter-proposal that would give these employees paralell rights.

For instance, management representatives have refused to provide non-U.S. citizens the right to have a disciplinary case heard ultimately by a third party whose decision would be final (for example, in an arbitration).

AFGE Local 1812 counts many non-citizens as dues-paying members and many others as strong supporters and they continually ask us to level the playing field when it comes to policies governing their employment.

Please respond by Wednesday, December 5, 2012, to this discrepancy – between your statement and the actions from the management negotiating team led by April Cabral and Paul Vali to our proposals regarding the treatment of non-citizens.  Frankly, we are puzzled by your stated goals compared to your representatives’ actions.