Survey for Everyone (BBG/VOA)

ForMemsEveryone

This is for members and non-members of AFGE Local 1812 who work at this Agency.

AFGE Local 1812 would like to know your thoughts about morale at the Agency. We have created a simple, four question survey that you may access online.

Members:

Please check the personal email address that you, as a Union member, provided to the Union for a message regarding the survey. If you have not recently seen it, please check the other folders in your email, including ‘junk’ or ‘spam’. If you still don’t see the message, please call or stop by the Union office to provide a personal email address where we may send the link for the survey to you.

For non-members:

Here is a link to a five question survey. Please feel free to use it to share your thoughts regarding morale at the Agency.

https://s.surveyplanet.com/SJxgdyIh_G

For everyone:

To keep your response anonymous, do NOT provide your email address at the beginning of the survey. You may complete the survey without giving an email address; your answers will count just as much.

Thoughts will be compiled into bullet point summaries in order that the Union may ask for changes by the Agency based on your suggestions.

Thank you for giving some thought and time to this process.

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BBG AGREES TO WITHDRAW LETTER OF REPRIMAND ISSUED TO EMPLOYEE

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The system does work, at times. But you may have to seek help from outside the Agency. Case in point: the matter of an employee of the Voice of America who reported what he believed were prohibited personnel practices committed by his Division Director. While requesting that his Division Director not be informed that he had reported the allegations, the employee informed the Agency Director of Personnel, the VOA Director, and the BBG CEO of the suspected violations.

Lo and behold, shortly thereafter, and just days after the BBG unveiled its Management Accountability Charter, the employee received a letter of reprimand from his Division Director based on the allegations contained in the information the employee provided to Agency officials! The employee sought to meet with the Agency officials about the Letter of Reprimand he received. In one case one of the officials referred him back to another one of the officials. Another official told him he needed to discuss it with his Division Director! Nothing was done about the Letter of Reprimand.

The BBG Management Accountability Charter supposedly guarantees employees that managers and supervisors at all levels will ensure that BBG employees will “work in a zero tolerance environment for favoritism, retaliation, and discrimination based upon race, sex, religion, color, age, national origin, disability, Union activity, sexual orientation, and whistleblower activity.”

The employee subsequently sought whistleblower protection from the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). After investigating the complaint, the OSC found that the employee’s disclosures were likely protected by the provisions of 5 USC §2302(b)(8).

As a result, the OSC contacted the BBG and an agreement was reached between the BBG and the OSC. The BBG agreed to withdraw the Letter of Reprimand and to “host OSC-led training efforts regarding protected whistleblowing, retaliation, and other prohibited personnel practices.”

AFGE Local 1812 is pleased that the BBG agreed to withdraw the Letter of Reprimand and to allow OSC-led training of Agency officials in issues of whistleblowing, retaliation, and other prohibited personnel practices. They are certainly in need of such training. However, that is not nearly enough.

The BBG guaranteed employees “zero tolerance” for retaliation for whistleblower activity. Why is the Division Director, who presented the Letter of Reprimand to the employee, not being disciplined? In addition, it’s unusual for a supervisor to write an official Letter of Reprimand by himself or herself. Did anyone in the Office of Personnel or anyone else in the Agency advise the supervisor on this matter or help him draft the letter? Shouldn’t there be some consequences?

The employees of the VOA cannot possibly take the BBG’s Management Accountability Charter seriously if those involved in this retaliation action are absolved without any consequences after blatantly ignoring the law.

1812’s Morale Survey of BBG/VOA

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All 1812 members! On February 6, 2018 (Tuesday), an email was sent to the personal email address we have for you. Near the end of the email there is a link to a survey regarding morale at BBG/VOA – please take the time to participate! If you did not receive this email, please call or stop by the Union office to verify that we have the correct email address for you. Thank you!

AFGE LOCAL 1812 CELEBRATES AMERICANA

Visitors to the AFGE Local 1812 office have the chance to glimpse a slice of Americana on display on the wall in the front office: A beautiful framed print of a Carol Highsmith photograph. The print was gifted to our Local by Carol Highsmith and her husband, Ted Landphair. Subject of the photograph is of the Hackberry General Store located on historic Route 66 in Hackberry, Arizona.

As some of you may remember, Ted Landphair worked for many years in VOA’s Worldwide English Division as a Features writer. Among other assignments, Ted provided numerous programs with travel stories from all over the United States. For many years, Ted was also a member of the AFGE Local 1812 Executive Board.

Carol Highsmith’s work has been the centerpiece of many important books about U.S. cities, states, religion and historical renovations nationwide. Her donated collection, Carol M. Highsmith Collection, at the Library of Congress, is featured in the top six collections out of 15 million images in the Library’s Prints & Photographs archive. Her work has been published in SmithsonianTimeNew York TimesArchitectureThe Washington Post Magazine and other national publications. 

Since Ted’s retirement, he and Carol have been traveling across the United States where Carol is documenting scenes of the United States for the This Is America! Foundation. www.thisisamericafoundation.org

AFGE Local 1812 sincerely appreciates this wonderful gift from Ted Landphair and Carol Highsmith.

AFGE Local 1812 Holiday Party 2017

VOA Band 2017
The VOA Band provided Holiday Favorites
Bartender 2017
Gonzalo tended bar fixing anything you wanted

It was a fun time for all who attended the AFGE Local 1812 Holiday Party – 2017 version. A big thanks to all who participated in the planning, performed, provided food and helped with the set-up/tear-down.
This year the highlights included the VOA Band who supplied the holiday tunes. Santa (Morris Eader) dropped by to spread good cheer by distributing gifts to attendees. Of course the party would not be the same without our accomplished bartender (Gonzalo Abarca).
We received many compliments on the main dishes from Jordan Skenteris. A special thanks to all those who brought the various desserts and made donations.
AFGE Local 1812 wishes all a Merry Holiday Season and the very best year yet!

Santa 2017
Santa made an appearance

MEMBERS OF AFGE LOCAL 1812 EXECUTIVE BOARD DONATE TO HELP HURRICANE VICTIMS

Members of the AFGE Local 1812 Executive Board reached into their own pockets and made a donation of $240.00 to the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA) to help fellow federal employees who suffered losses due to the hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico earlier this year.

The FEEA offers disaster relief grants to eligible federal employees when disasters such as hurricanes strike.

STRAIGHT OUT OF KAFKA

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Just days after the release of the results of the 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, the Broadcasting Board of Governors with much fanfare held its awards ceremony. The ceremonies included a color guard, lots of smiling and non-smiling denizens of the bureaucratic structure and at the end, some light refreshments.

The union was glad to see that several bargaining unit employees received much-deserved awards. Some other award winners, particularly from management. were puzzling, if not downright troubling.

The results of the 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey – our Agency management’s annual report card – showed that several agency areas received nothing but failing grades. These units failed in ALL categories across the board.

Preliminary analysis shows that the work units listed below are the absolute worst of the worst and where the management represents spectacular failures, according to the only report card management officials receive – the annual FEVS results. Here are the ten worst units in the building ranked in order starting with the very worst workplace:

English Radio Branch (Regional)
Central News and Production
Afghan Service
Persian Service
Mandarin Service
IBB Office of Contracts
News Gathering Branch, Central News Division, Operations Support Division (tied)
Television Operations / TV Studio Service
Russian Service
English Division

If the union may be so bold as to ask: Why did any management official in the worst performing work units listed above receive an award? For what, pray tell? What were the criteria for the Agency award? It’s a travesty that managers from the worst managed units (as identified in the FEVS) are rewarded for anything. These undeserved awards have an immediate and depressing impact on employee morale. Wouldn’t it make sense that ONLY those managers with higher-than-average results in the FEVS survey should even be considered for an award?

We might add that any reward to undeserving managers in this or any other federal agency comes from the pocket of the already beleaguered U.S. taxpayer.

The Union suggests that the members of the Awards Coordinators and Planning Committee should be instructed to automatically reject any award for a management official in a work unit that received a failing grade in the evaluated FEVS categories.

Our sources tell us that upper management considers employee morale as a yawn item, ranking in importance somewhere below their daily decision as to where to have lunch. That’s why they don’t take the pesky issue seriously. The upper bureaucracy, ensconced in their comfy suites in the Cohen building, seemingly don’t give a fiddle about the survey results and wish the FEVS would just go away.

Otherwise, how could higher management allow the chief of one of the very worst work units in the building to be rewarded with a quality step increase? Demonstrably failed managers should not be allowed to receive outstanding ratings.

By allowing this, the Agency turns the entire ritual into a Kafka-esque burlesque.

You know it and we know it as well: Morale will never improve in an Agency where bad management performers are not held accountable for the miserable morale in their work units but instead are rewarded and celebrated for their abject failures.

THE BABY STEP TANGO

The final results of the 2017 OPM Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) have just been released and guess what? For the Broadcasting Board of Governors, there is no significant difference between this year’s and last year’s results. In fact, for the BBG, there is no significant difference between this year’s results and the results for every one of the past surveys since the very first one in 2002. The federal employees at the BBG are caught in a full-blown crisis: a crisis of confidence, a crisis of poor leadership, a crisis of morale.

Once again, our Agency has the dubious honor of being the cellar-dweller in the Medium-Sized Federal Agency category. We’re the “bottom of the barrel” kids. We literally can go no lower!

A look back shows that, over many years, Agency management has preached “incremental improvements” or taking “baby steps” in order to turn things around. Well, those incremental baby-step improvements have failed to make any significant improvements in the morale crisis at this Agency – a morale crisis that has been in existence since at least 2002. We are told every year that we didn’t get to this point overnight and we won’t get out of the hole we are in overnight. Well at what point do we start digging out instead of digging deeper?

The latest FEVS shows that, throughout government overall, positive responses were up. Any increases in positive responses for the BBG are probably just statistical “noise” — insignificant. The real news in this year’s results is that the BBG remains dead last in every index in its category. In the Employee Engagement Index–dead last. In the New IQ Index – dead last. Global Satisfaction Index – dead last. Finally, in the Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework – same story – dead last. For those keeping count, that is four for four; a total and complete failure.

If the past few years of morale improvement efforts have shown anything, it is that this Agency does not know how to improve employee morale; in fact, morale has gotten worse. Obviously, whatever tiny steps the Agency has utilized to improve morale have not been enough to significantly and adequately address the causes of the morale problem. This year’s FEVS is proof that better communication and more ice cream socials and poetry contests aren’t what improves morale. In fact, the case can be made that these social events worsen morale because they give the impression that management is focused on these activities rather than on actions that would truly improve morale, such as removing inefficient, demeaning, incompetent and ineffective managers. (Unfortunately for the Agency and its employees, that describes many managers.)

What is needed is a strong, serious effort that either results in significant improvements in morale or has real consequences for those managers who, in essence, are the driving force in the abysmal morale situation in the areas they oversee.

The Agency already has the tools needed to identify, in some cases even down to the language service level, those managers who oversee units that have higher morale levels as well as those managers who need to be removed from their positions and transferred to other, non-managerial, duties.

Given the robust 75% response rate to the survey, we can rightly say that Agency employees are not interested in any more upper management plans for “incremental baby step changes.” No more sugarcoating. No more dancing around the problems. No more concocting unrealistic, peripheral solutions. The Agency needs to make a real commitment and institute a “roll up the sleeves” attitude to seriously tackle and reverse the crisis situation that we are in. Managers overseeing units with low morale need to feel the heat and either raise the morale or lose their positions.

Low morale is a threat to the mission of any organization; conversely, high morale is a force multiplier. The Agency needs to understand that improving morale is not something that it should only focus on after all other tasks are accomplished; improving morale should be on the top of every manager’s list. Make no mistake: low morale is an existential threat to this Agency and its about time leaders and managers acknowledge that and do something about it.


Taking a Knee Could Get You Booted

The present dust up over NFL players who kneel during the traditional presentation of the flag and singing of the National Anthem at football games has all sorts of facets.

One facet that has not been fully explored is the issue of employees’ right to freely express themselves. Most of the news stories about this topic  cast this as a debate over the players’ right to exercise their First Amendment rights on the field which is their work space. They invoke the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as the guarantor. To clarify: the First Amendment prevents the government of the United States from making any law “abridging the freedom of speech”. But the current debate on the issue concerns the matter of the NFL (a private firm) allowing players to protest by kneeling during the presentation of the U.S. flag and playing of the National Anthem.

First, to make it clear: there are limits to any citizen’s free speech rights which are pretty much universally accepted in this country. Even though the right to protest or the right to express one’s views is protected by the First Amendment libel and slander are not protected. Neither is speech that is discriminatory or sexually harassing or likely to incite illegal activity.

Many employees, especially those who once lived under authoritarian rule, believe that they “live in a free country” and that the Constitution protects their freedom of speech from restrictions imposed on it by their employer. As the Gershwin song goes: It ain’t necessarily so. The First Amendment only protects citizens’ free speech against government restrictions. Constitutional rights do not necessarily apply at the work site and some court cases have established that the employer’s control over an employee’s speech may even extend beyond the work site and during non-work hours.

As employees of the federal government, the First Amendment does apply to members of the AFGE Local 1812 bargaining unit. However, even if you work for the federal government the courts have determined that it is a balancing act between the employee’s free speech rights and the impact of the employee’s speech on the Agency’s operations. We have had cases, for example, in which the agency has sought to discipline employees who have spoken to the press about problems they have identified at the Agency.

In the case of the NFL players, their employer is not the government but a private entity. The NFL probably could establish a policy that prohibits players from kneeling (or doing anything else that the NFL decided was detrimental to its operations or image) during the presentation of the National Anthem. AFGE Local 1812 is not suggesting that the NFL should do this, just that it probably could.

Although the First Amendment does not fully protect an employee’s right to free speech of any kind at work, there are some protections for private sector employees such as the whistleblower law. In addition, the National Labor Relations Act protects speech regarding wages, hours, and working conditions. But even then, there is a balancing act with the employer’s right to protect the business.

Kneeling during the National Anthem has been identified by the players as a protest about the treatment of African Americans by law enforcement. It is hard to see how this issue could be considered as being about wages, hours, or working conditions.

So, why does the law give one’s employer the right to restrict so much of one’s speech? It would be beneficial to see a more thoughtful discussion about the extent to which an employer has the right to restrict an employee’s speech. The present situation with the National Football League players’ protest could be the impetus to spark that healthy debate.

IF LEADERSHIP IS EXEMPLARY…. PRAISE IT

With the threat of Hurricane Irma barreling through the Caribbean towards Florida and threatening AFGE Local 1812 employees in the Miami area at Radio/TV Marti, we once again applaud the leadership of the Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, Malule Gonzalez.

In an effort to accommodate employees and most importantly, ensure their safety as well as to fulfill the broadcasting mission, Ms. Gonzalez implemented a plan of action that had two goals: 1) allow the employees and their families to make adequate preparations for their safety with flexible leave policies; and 2) enable the continuation of broadcasting operations of Radio/TV Marti .

To those ends, Director Gonzalez granted Administrative Leave to all Radio/TV Marti employees in Miami for Friday, September 8th so they could make preparations with their families. Director Gonzalez also approved a flex-leave policy for employees to use, if necessary, on Thursday, September 7th.

To keep programming on the air, the organization has prepared evergreen material which will be used from the Greenville Transmitting Station as well as from the Washington, D.C. studios. In addition, some Marti employees will be sent to Washington, D.C. so that live broadcast programming and updates can be provided.

To keep Radio/TV Marti employees informed once the monstrous storm system is gone from the area, an information hotline number was provided to employees so that weekend staff and all other employees could stay informed about the resumption of normal work schedules as well as for general guidance. Director Gonzalez also provided two additional telephone numbers which would be accessible for special guidance and concerns.

All are hoping that things will be back to normal by Monday, September 11th.

AFGE Local 1812 applauds the leadership of the management at Radio/TV Marti in Miami and in particular, the efforts of Director Gonzalez.

We add a reminder to keep our colleagues in Miami in our thoughts and prayers as they await the potential onslaught of Hurricane Irma.