Using Taxpayer Dollars, BBG Agency Battles Against U.S. Citizen Employees

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a federal agency whose top executives use such terms as “old white guys” and “cute high school intern,” is in trouble for discriminating against U.S. citizens. To be fair, BBG executives also discriminate against non-U.S. citizens, especially foreign-born journalists, and its exploited workforce of contractors – U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike.

This press release was issued by AFGE Local 1812, a union representing BBG employees. Link

AFGE Local 1812NEWS RELEASE

Using Taxpayer Dollars, BBG Agency Battles Against U.S. Citizen Employees

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) which oversees all non-military international government broadcasting including the Voice of America, has been found liable for not giving employment priority to United States citizens.

The practice of hiring non-U.S. citizens despite the presence of qualified U.S. citizens was submitted to an institutional grievance by AFGE Local 1812, the Union that represents broadcasters and journalists at the Voice of America and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. In August 2007, Federal Arbitrator George Marshall Jr., ruled that the policy was illegal. However, the Agency appealed the award to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). It lost.

The Agency then tried to appeal in the D.C. Circuit Court, only to withdraw its motion. (Order granting Petitioner’s Motion to Voluntarily Dismiss Appeal in Broadcasting Board of Governors v. FLRA, No. 12-1044 (D.C. Cir. April 24, 2012).

We are aware that several plaintiffs who are not covered by the AFGE Local 1812 Contract are currently challenging the practice through the courts, which could lead to more legal liabilities that we calculate could reach in the millions of dollars, due to the Agency’s stubbornness in violating the will of Congress.

For the Agency to keep flaunting the Smith-Mundt Act sends a terrible message to employees: that the BBG considers itself above the law and will deny U.S. citizens their rights, using taxpayers’ money to do so. AFGE Local 1812 has expressed concern to the BBG that the Agency continues to incur back pay and damages liability for past and current illegal selections, at a time of budgetary constraints and RIFs. Continued violation of the Smith-Mundt Act after the FLRA’s ruling raises the prospect of individual liability for any BBG officers involved. This litigation may be one of the reasons why the Agency is now trying to get Congress to repeal the entire Smith-Mundt Act.

This type of behavior is not new to this Agency. In 2002, after more than 20 years of legal maneuvering, the Agency reached a half-billion-dollar settlement in the discrimination case brought by female employees against VOA/USIA in Hartman v. Albright.

In 2010, the courts forced the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to pay over $650,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by former VOA Arabic Service employees who said they had been discriminated against by Radio Sawa. (Mohamed Abdelkarim, et al. v. James K. Glassman). The Agency was accused of discrimination in the hiring, promotion, and treatment of these experienced Arabic broadcasters who were pushed out in favor of less experienced younger workers.

The Agency has acquired another potentially huge financial liability. On November 19, 2011, Federal Arbitrator, Suzanne Butler, found in favor of AFGE Local 1812 in its grievance over the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ 2009 illegal reduction-in-force at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, adversely affecting more than 20 employees.

The Arbitrator’s award orders, among other things, reinstatement of the affected employees to their previous positions without loss of seniority or benefits and full back pay including interest. Acting in its usual manner the Agency is postponing its day of reckoning, when it would have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to these employees, by filing an appeal to the FLRA. Continued delays could add millions to taxpayers’ costs.

These Agency actions might not be happening in glitzy Las Vegas casinos as was the case with the GSA. Still and all, the BBG is using the hard-earned and increasingly scarce dollars from U.S. taxpayers in its capricious legal battles against VOA employees.

For more information call AFGE Local 1812 at 202-382-7616.

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