Members Suffer As Shutdown Continues

As the partial government shutdown continues employees at the Voice of America and Radio/TV Marti continue to suffer the consequences of not receiving a paycheck. AFGE Local 1812 has heard from numerous members who have had to make do without their paychecks and the uncertainty of when they would receive their next one. Some examples of how the shutdown is affecting members include:

An employee told AFGE Local 1812 that he had to borrow from his savings in order to make his January mortgage and to pay for his utilities. He has no idea where he will get the money for his February mortgage.

One employee had to borrow money from his retirement plan and will have to delay his retirement. Also, the reality is that OPM has been delayed in processing federal retirements and the shutdown will no doubt, only have a negative impact on the timely processing of retirements in the future.

Another reported that she had to tap into her savings to pay for her mortgage, gas, groceries, cellphone, etc.

One employee had major surgery in December. He got an infection while in the hospital and has major medical bills piling up. He does not have the opportunity to find another job while he is recuperating.

Another employee reports that he had to raid his kid’s college fund to make payments that were due including the mortgage. He has had to put a spring break trip for his kids on hold and he reports the kids are really upset over the whole situation.

An employee reported that his wife had a high-risk pregnancy and was unable to work so his household was reduced to a one paycheck household with high medical bills. Now he has been forced to borrow money from friends and does not know what he will do if the shutdown lasts much longer.

An employee is worried that his automatic payments may have insufficient funds. He has two kids in college and had to make tuition payments. He was sending money to his mother overseas and for the first time has had to skip sending her the money she relies on.

Another employee’s spouse is also a government employee and he too is not receiving a paycheck due to the shutdown. They will have to dip into savings to make the next mortgage payment if this shutdown continues. They have kids in college and have no idea how they will make those payments. To make matters worse they have medical bills piling up due to the employee’s cancer treatments.

An employee has had to resort to a food bank and to pawning personal items. A friend even donated items to her so she could pawn them. The employee’s spouse was not working so they were already reduced to a one paycheck household.

To add insult to injury most of these members have been excepted from the furlough so they are being required to work even though they are not going to be paid until the shutdown is over. Those that have been excepted from the furlough cannot apply for unemployment benefits and they cannot seek a job in the meantime.

Those that have been furloughed can apply for unemployment but will have to pay it back when they receive their back pay. Many are finding it hard to find work in the meantime because employers know that once the shutdown is over, they will go back to their government jobs.

For our members, AFGE has information on how you may be able to get assistance during the shutdown. Go to:…/campaigns/stop-the-shutdown/ for information about possible financial assistance, TSP loan information, furloughed worker support from Union Plus, and how to find your local food bank.

Ordinary middle class Americans are suffering over a political squabble. Our paychecks are being held hostage because of a funding dispute between the White House and Congress. It is time to decouple our paychecks from this dispute and federal employee workers’ paychecks should never be part of a budget dispute in the future.

Photo: AFGE Members protest the shutdown in New York City.

ny rally


Not So Fast, Results Not So Rosy

In an October 16th email to all employees CEO and Director John Lansing boasted that the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) “continued its upward trend with a 3 percent average increase across all indicators” in the 2018 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). He noted that the government-wide average increase was 1%.

This year’s results show that there was a precipitous drop in participation at the USAGM. The participation rate this year was 58.5%. Compare that with last year’s participation rate of 75%, or 2016’s participation rate of 63.4%, or even the participation rate in 2015 which was 74.3%. In talking with fellow employees, AFGE Local 1812 became concerned about the number of people who said they were not going to participate in the survey this year because “it doesn’t make any difference.” We suspect the 3% average increase across all indicators could be explained in great part by the lack of participation of the most jaded employees. The increases can also be explained in part because when you start with a mark so far below the government-wide average there is just more room for improvement. This year’s results did not result in the USAGM improving its position in relation to its ranking among all other agencies.

There are two main indices used in the survey: the Global Satisfaction Index and the New IQ Index. The New IQ index is further subdivided into 4 subcategories.

The Agencies are grouped in five categories according to the number of employees: Very Large Agencies, Large Agencies, Medium Agencies, Small Agencies, and Very Small Agencies. The USAGM is included with the Medium Agencies. In every index the USAGM falls below the government-wide average.

In the Global Satisfaction Index the USAGM received a 57% for positive responses. That is 10% below the average for agencies of the same size. It is also the second lowest in the Medium Agency category only above the Department of Education (52%) which threw its Union Local out of the building and imposed a draconian contract on its employees.

In the New IQ Overall Index the USAGM scored a 54% for positive responses. That is 10% below the average for agencies of the same size. It was dead last for all Medium Agencies.

In the New IQ Fair Index the USAGM received a 41% for positive responses. That is 11% below the average for agencies of the same size.

In the New IQ Open Index the USAGM received a 55% for positive responses. That is 8% below the average for agencies of the same size.

In the New IQ Cooperative Index the USAGM received a 49% for positive responses. That is a whopping 13% below the average for agencies of the same size.

In the New IQ Supportive Index the USAGM received a 72% for positive responses. That is 10% below the average for agencies of the same size.

No matter how you spin it, the USAGM is once again the Bottom of the Barrel and in 2018, just as in past years, received a failing grade.

The news is the same for the International Broadcasting Bureau and the Voice of America. Digging deeper into the results, there was only one area under the USAGM that was above the line in every category – the Office of Security. Congratulations to them.

The Engineering and Transmission Directorate, the Resource and Project Management Directorate, and the Technical Support Division/TV Maintenance Service all had only one category that was below the government-wide average but that’s really the end of any positive news.

There were several units in the agency in which not a single category was rated above the government-wide average. The Office of Contracts, The Office of the CIO, the Programming Directorate, the English to Africa Service, Broadcast Operations, the English Division, the Persian News Network, Central News and Production, the East Asia and Pacific Division, the Mandarin Service, the Afghanistan and Dari Service, the VOA News Center and the Real Time News Desk all failed across the board. If you are looking for a reassignment or detail, employees of the agency would be wise to avoid these areas of toxic morale.

Checking in with Miami, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting had one category that managed to better the government-wide average but by only one percentage point. All other categories were below the line.

What seems to be obvious, but it will not happen, is that supervisors and managers of the failing areas should be removed from their positions. At the very least they should be required to significantly improve morale in their areas in the 2019 FEVS or face reassignment or removal. But the USAGM has never held these failing managers accountable.

Overall, these results are far from anything to crow about. After all these years maybe all of those employees who refused to take part in the survey this year were right – it just doesn’t matter. No matter the results, the USAGM will just continue along the course upper management has plotted—paying lip service to improving morale but never significantly improving it.

The numbers don’t lie.

A Mass of Remembrance

A Mass of Remembrance was held for Marie Ciliberti on November 7, 2018 in Silver Spring, Maryland at Our Lady Queen of Poland Catholic Church. That day would have been her 82nd birthday. Members of the AFGE Local 1812 Executive Board attended and the Union provided a beautiful flower spray for the service.

Marie was a devout Roman Catholic and the service was traditional with most of it being conducted in Latin. It gave everyone the chance to remember how much she contributed to those around her. She would have been very pleased with the service which stressed what she found important in her life, her religion, her belief in freedom, and her willingness to help those who needed assistance.

We were not surprised that she attended this particular church. She was very proud of her Polish ancestry. AFGE Local 1812 office manager, Bogomila Mireva noticed a remarkable fact- Marie passed away on October 22nd – the feast day of John Paul II, the Polish Pope. As Union member Verla Wiley exclaimed: “Only Marie could have pulled that off!”

Former AFGE Local 1812 Executive Board member Ted Landphair wanted to share his memories of working with Marie.

I am far away, in Arizona and knew Marie professionally rather than in her life away from work, and so I do not know her family or how to reach them. But I would like them to know how special Marie was to many people. If there is a window in her Mass of Remembrance to read my comments about Dear Marie, I would be honored:

Marie was a fierce conservative; I am more liberal every day. We were both longtime broadcasters at the Voice of America but in disparate branches in distant parts of the building. Yet we were fast friends and mutual admirers, owing to our shared devotion to the employee union of which we were Board members.

Marie, and I to a lesser extent because I was constantly traveling on behalf of the agency, made every effort to “speak truth to power” within the Voice of America, confronting management and a punitive “human relations” office that was not always human at all in its treatment of rank-and-file employees. Marie, in particular, put her actions where her sentiments were, speaking forcefully in forums and staff meetings and walking in the vanguard of picketing protests when called for.

She and I had the most genial of spats, especially about politics, slipping each other digs and winks when the fortunes of “our side” seemed on the rise. There were no winners or losers in our disagreements, except, regrettably, on the issue of smoking. I could not talk Marie out of it.

We both despised hypocrisy and condescension. I was the more temperate about it: Marie was mild-mannered until outrage over injustices overwhelmed her, at which time it was woe unto those who would mistreat or malign the “ordinary” (really not ordinary at all) person.

By now her survivors have heard or read many versions of the cliche, “She will be missed” and the one about her “making a difference.” These are not cliches in the case of dear Marie. She changed an entire bureaucratic culture — or at least never stopped trying to — for the better.

God bless her work, her life, and her soul.Marie's Flowers

The Passing of Marie Ciliberti

Marie Ciliberti

Marie Ciliberti passed away Monday, October 22, 2018. You can read her obituary here:

She worked for the VOA Russian Service and was particularly proud of her work with Willis Conover, broadcasting jazz music to many fans behind the iron curtain. She believed in the mission of the VOA and believed that the freedom expressed in the American art form of jazz was a one of the best ways to make connections with the people of the world.

After many years she retired from the VOA but she remained a presence in our lives as a member of AFGE Local 1812. She served on the AFGE Local 1812 Executive Board and served as the Local’s Legislative Coordinator. Many members learned how to contact their members of Congress and Senators through the tutelage of Marie. So many colleagues were able to continue working for the VOA because she fought so fiercely to protect their language services from being eliminated. When the closure of a language service became inevitable, she fought just as hard to have members of that language service placed in positions so that they could continue their federal careers.

She loved fighting for employees who she believed were unjustly treated especially those facing false charges against them or overly harsh and punitive disciplinary actions. We loved her for doing so.

She was a source of wise advise and institutional knowledge for many of us.

Here are some of the thoughts her colleagues have expressed about her. Please leave your thoughts as well.

I am devastated. I knew her age, but she looked great. – Isabela Coccoli

I have been thinking of her – such a wonderful lady. She did so much good in this world. – Zamira Edwards

I’m very sad to hear this. I got to know Marie in 2010 when BBG was trying to cut 65% Mandarin Service. Marie fought together with us successfully to defend the Service. Ever since then, I saw Marie in every fight along with us. I pray for her in heaven. – Robert Li

May her soul rest in Peace. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones. –  Grace Abdu

My heart is broken.- Huchen Zhang

She was so supportive of me, and protected me against my worse instincts. – Camille Grosdidier

I’m so sad to learn of the passing of Marie. She was an inspiration to all of us for her passion towards preserving human dignity and justice. Marie was an outstanding Union Legislative Coordinator. I miss receiving her email regarding issues being discussed in different Congressional committees, mostly related to Latin America. Those emails were sent late at night and I was impressed by her high energy and thorough investigation going past midnight.

We will miss her dearly. My thoughts and prayers are with her and her loved ones. – Gonzalo Abarca

What A Loss For Us, She’ll be greatly missed. – Maureen Allen

May her soul rest in perfect peace. Please, my condolence to her family and friends. – Usman Ahmad



The results of the 2018 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) will be announced soon. You completed the survey, didn’t you? Or perhaps you didn’t, because your morale is so low and, after years of completing these surveys, hoping upon hope that they would make a difference, you realize that the Agency’s high-ranking officials (let’s not call them leaders) are unable and unwilling to raise morale and the surveys did not make any significant difference.

You didn’t need a calendar anymore to know when FEVS season came around – all of a sudden the Agency began prioritizing internal communication in the hope that maybe the survey numbers will tick up in some categories so it can claim, as it always does, that “we are headed in the right direction.” This year, we got 3 x 5 multi-colored cards titled “Set the Direction.” The cards encouraged us to complete the survey to “help build the road-map to improve our Agency.” The Agency’s top officials, bereft of credibility, lessened that credibility even more with a statement like that. Does anyone believe the survey results will be used as a road-map to improve the agency? Anyone? Years and years of surveys haven’t resulted in raised morale. Why would this survey do so? According to last year’s survey results the BBG remained in last place among mid-sized federal agencies and VOA ranked near the bottom of hundreds of sub-agencies. BBG and VOA have been bottom-dwellers for years, despite the (half-hearted) efforts on the part of Agency officials to raise morale. Virtually everything they have done has failed.

The card listed “just few initiatives” (the “a” was left out; good proofreading job there!) “that were developed based on FEVS feedback.” It then goes on to list eight initiatives; many of them are thin, some of them seem to exist only on paper, and all of them exist in a healthy agency – feedback or not. Agency officials seem to want credit for implementing initiatives as a result of FEVS feedback which should have been in place regardless of the FEVS!

What’s next, credit for the building having a roof? Credit for clean water, heat and AC? These hapless officials seem to want credit for implementing ideas that a good leader would have long ago put in place. As important and even substantial as a few of the initiatives are, to give credit to FEVS feedback for implementing them reveals the officials for what they are – incompetent, unimaginative and devoid of initiative.

We don’t need any more surveys or ice cream socials or promises. We need action and strong, imaginative, bold and competent leaders.

Don’t list as an accomplishment that you created the Office of Workforce Support & Development. This office should have been set up years ago.

Don’t ask for plaudits for increasing funding for the awards program; fully funded awards programs should have been in place years ago. Agencies that rank high in the FEVS surveys have robust awards programs.

Finally, after years of our pleading, the Agency has increased its training budget, another initiative the Agency credits to FEVS feedback. After much prompting by AFGE Local 1812, the Agency brought in TSP trainers (both in Washington and Miami). The classes were wildly popular. Why did it take Union pressure for the Agency to do what it should have been doing all along? You can’t just say you care about employees – you have to actually take action that shows employees you care about them. And recently, after more Union pressure, the Agency has agreed to offer classroom training on federal benefits for new, mid-career and soon-to-retire employees. Kudos, but why did it take pressure from the Union for these classes to be scheduled?

The Agency seems to want credit for implementing WebTA. The system seems popular among employees, but should have been implemented a decade ago. Why is this listed as something the Agency wants credit for?

ePerformance is listed, as well. Again, the Agency wants compliments for instituting an electronic system to replace a paper-based system. This should have been done at least ten years ago. You want credit for putting something in place ten years after you should have done so? Really?

We are told that Workplace, an internal Facebook, has been launched to improve internal communication. Yet it is no better than email, and few have signed on. The Cohen building network external Facebook page is much more popular, more trusted and more robust. We cringe at the thought of the cost to create, implement and operate Workplace.

As well, we are told that full-time staff have been designated to support internal communication. Who are they? What do they do? What have they accomplished?

Perhaps the most egregious example of an initiative claimed by the Agency is Leadership 20/20 and 360 Assessments for Managers. You want credit for launching a leadership program? And this came as a result of FEVS feedback? You needed FEVS feedback to know that you needed to have a leadership program? And you’re again promising effective 360 assessments for managers after years and years of promising that you would? You expect us to believe you? Please.

It is clear that the Agency’s high-ranking officials are clueless, uninspired and are in positions for which they are not qualified. This Agency needs a turnaround specialist who is willing to clear out the upper level deadwood and eager to implement bold, dramatic policies and procedures. Without such leadership, we will continue to founder, plugging along until Congress finally decides to put us out of our misery.


In the United States, at the beginning of the industrial revolution, citizens began forming unions to fight for their freedom and human dignity while at work. The times were not that far removed from the American Revolution and many had fought in the Revolution or had fathers who had done so. The nature of work was changing and supposedly free men were not ready to accept the way work was structured in the newly forming industrial factories. Many employees felt that they were being treated as “wage slaves”. Unions were being formed to push back against the unrestrained power of management at work and to remind employers that those working for them are human beings and deserving of human dignity and respect. Is there anything more patriotic and American than that? After all, the United States was formed when the citizens of relatively powerless separate colonies united together to fight collectively for their rights. Labor Day is a celebration of those who have to work for a living and to celebrate the ability to unite together to advance their rights collectively.

On this Labor Day federal employee Union members will also be celebrating a legal victory. On August 25, 2018 Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson issued a ruling that blocked the implementation of major portions of three Executive Orders issued by President Trump on May 25, 2018. Executive Order 13836 would have severely restricted federal unions right to bargain collectively. Executive Order 13839 would allow for the firing of federal employees while severely limiting their right to appeal the charges against them. Executive Order 13837 would have severely restricted the time Union officials could use to represent bargaining unit members while “on the clock”.

Executive Order 13837 relabeled official time as “taxpayer funded union time” in order to misleadingly portray it as being something other than agency work. The use of official time by employee union representatives is a favorite target of pro-corporate/anti-worker interest groups. According to their thinking, in the case of federal workers, employees on official time are working for the union – not the government agency. But that is not the case.

Union representatives on official time are not employees of some third party organization. Union officials are employees of the government agency who act as representatives for their fellow employees. In some cases, employees seeking assistance from Union representatives may not even be Union members. The Federal Service Labor Management Relations Act (FSLMRA) gave most federal employees the right to bargain collectively but it required an open shop. In other words, if employees voted to be represented by a Union, employees could not be required to become a member of the Union. Nevertheless, the Union was required to represent all the employees in the bargaining unit whether an employee was a Union member or not.

Unlike in the private sector, federal employees’ employer is the federal government and they are therefore entitled to some of the protections guarantied under the United States Constitution from their employer. One of those rights is due process. So, for example, if a federal employee is charged with some work infraction, because his/her employer is the federal government s/he must be given due process. Someone in the agency must represent the employee in whatever appellate system is established to provide the required due process. The work of the Union representative, in this case, is not the work of some outside entity. It is agency work. Someone has to do it and those who wrote the FSLMRA determined that it would be best if, instead of having the agency appoint the employee’s representative (who would not necessarily act solely in the interest of the employee), the employee would get to choose who his or her representative is. This is done democratically because that is how Union representatives are selected.

Employees have the right to determine if they will form a Union or not through a democratic election. If a Union is elected, Union members then vote on who their representatives are. When you celebrate Labor Day this year remember that there is probably no better example of democracy than a Union meeting and Union elections and there is probably no better reflection of what our revolutionary forefathers fought for than protecting one’s human rights through the collective power of a Union.

Red for Feds

The rain held off and thousands of federal workers and supporters rallied in front of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia building on Wednesday, July 25th. The date and location were significant because Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was scheduled to hear the case filed by several unions against the Trump May 25th Executive Orders, that seek to severely restrict collective bargaining for federal employees, at that court house.

Several prominent politicians joined AFGE President, J. David Cox on the stage to address the crowd that appeared as a sea of red. The rally was organized by AFGE and the theme was Red for Feds. Federal employees were encouraged to wear red to show support. Among those showing support for federal employees collective bargaining rights included Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman Jamie Ruskin from Maryland and Congressman Gerry Connelly and Don Beyer from Virginia. Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, Congressional Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi and Senator Bernie Sanders also showed their support. Richard Trumpka, President of the AFL-CIO addressed the throng as well.

President Cox stressed the fact that this rally was not just about one union but was to show support for the labor movement as a whole. Employees’ right to collective bargaining has been under attack in this country and the Executive Orders are just another example of that onslaught against working people.



We have long suspected that the Agency wants to privatize. But, it seems, that Congress won’t allow it – at least not at one fell swoop. So, it appears, that Agency officials are engaged in an end-run around Congress and using hiring practices to implement de facto privatization. How? Consider what happens when your colleagues resign, retire or are fired; they are almost never replaced with full-time staff – at best they are replaced by contractors. At worst, their positions go unfilled while the branch is expected to produce the same level of content as before. If we hear “you have to learn to do more with less” one more time we will scream.

Even low-level supervisors are telling us that when they lose people they are not being allowed to fill their positions; sometimes they are given a little bit of contractor money to help accomplish the mission.

Examine the vacancy announcements of the past year; we estimate 90% of them are for GS-13 positions and above. Think about that: in the past year more than a hundred full-time GS-12 and below employees have left the Agency and fewer than a handful have been replaced by full-time employees.

It seems obvious what the Agency is doing. And no one seems willing or able to stop it.

At this point what you need to do is protect yourself: those at the GS-12 level and below are likely the last generation of full-time government employees who will staff the Agency. In a few years, as a result of retirements, resignations and terminations, this Agency will almost assuredly consist of GS-13s and above managing hundreds of contractors.

It appears for now that the Agency is not contemplating RIFs as a way to reduce headcount, but it is looking for other ways to do so, either removal or encouraging retirement or resignation. Our advice? Keep your nose clean and stay on the straight and narrow path; if you do, the Agency will probably let you remain and someday retire. But you will increasingly be a minority, surrounded by contractors with none of the benefits you enjoy. And, because of President Trump’s executive orders, you have fewer protections than ever before. You are almost an at-will employee. It’s a new day, so ride the wave and know that, if nothing changes, the way the Agency is staffed in the future will not be anything like it has been for generations.

AFGE Local 1812 Takes Part in Wreath Laying Ceremony

VOC Photo 2018

AFGE Local 1812 President Timothy Shamble and VOA Mandarin Service employee Huchen Zhang with wreath.

Friday morning, June 8, 2018 was another bright sunny late Spring day. Officials from various embassies and interest groups gathered to remember the more than 100 million victims of communism in a wreath laying ceremony at the Victims of Communism Memorial at the intersection of New Jersey and Massachusetts Avenues NW in Washington, DC. The memorial is based on the statue that freedom loving Chinese citizens raised in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

AFGE Local 1812 once again took part in the wreath laying ceremony. Representing the members was the Local’s President, Timothy Shamble.

Each year the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation presents the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom to an individual or institution who has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to freedom and democracy in opposition to communism and all other forms of tyranny.

This year’s recipient, Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, was awarded the medal posthumously. It was accepted by his wife and daughter. He was the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba.

AFGE Local 1812 General Vice President Dave Allison Retires

Allison Photo

Dave Allison is retiring from the Voice of America effective June 30, 2018. Dave served as the General Vice President of AFGE Local 1812 since March 2014. Before that he served as the Local’s Head Steward and as a Steward.

Dave worked for the Voice of America as a television studio technician and helped the Local with his audio/visual skills.

Most significantly, Dave served on the negotiating team for the latest Negotiated Labor-Management Agreement (NLMA) which the Union just signed on June 7, 2018. The grueling negotiations lasted years and Dave was instrumental in presenting the employees’ positions. Those who took part in the negotiations will always remember “Dave’s analogies” in which he skillfully poked holes in many a management argument.

Dave remains General Vice President until the end of his term which ends June 30, 2018. He will remain a member of AFGE Local 1812 as a retired member.

We thank Dave for all his contributions and wish him well in his retirement.