Former Voice of America Persian Service Employee Awarded $175,000

A jury has found in favor of Banafshe Alavi (Bany) to the tune of $175,000 in a case she brought against the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM).

Ms. Alavi worked as a contractor for the Voice of America (VOA) Persian Service for 10 years before she was finally hired as a federal employee on April 16, 2006. She was fired in 2007 just before her probationary period was over. Ms. Alavi accused Voice of America officials of discrimination and retaliation and brought a civil complaint against the USAGM (the parent organization of the VOA which was known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors at that time). The case was eventually presented to a jury which found retaliation and awarded her $175,000 in compensatory damages.

Equitable relief, which could result in reinstatement and back pay, will be addressed by the court at a later date. Ms. Alavi has been out of her federal position for 12 years.

Ms. Alavi complained that a supervisor was harassing her and after her one-on-one complaints got nowhere she arranged for a meeting with fellow members of the VOA Persian Service to bring complaints about the supervisor to the attention of upper management officials. Shortly thereafter Agency management accused her of time and attendance abuse and presented her with a removal letter on April 6, 2007.

Ms. Alavi then filed an EEO complaint which ultimately resulted in the jury award.

Some of the supervisors and managers involved in this case remain at the Agency. A charge of time and attendance abuse is a favorite stratagem for removing employees targeted by USAGM management. Employees and contractors who testified at the trial are protected from retaliation associated with their testimony.

Management at the USAGM has been consistently rated at the very bottom of federal government agencies in the annual OPM Employee Viewpoint Survey.

Fed Up, Rise Up Rally

AFGE Capitol Hill Rally 09.24.19

Hundreds of government employee union members attended a rally on the East side of the U.S. Capitol building on September 24th to express their dissatisfaction with the attack on worker rights by the current administration. Government workers confirmed that they were fed up with the attack on unions all across the country and that they were not willing to accept these attacks and were ready to rise up.

The crowd also expressed its solidarity with the UAW workers who are currently on strike against General Motors who has experienced huge profits and was one of the U.S. automakers who received millions of dollars when they were bailed out by U.S. taxpayers during the Great Recession.

Several government Union presidents spoke to the hundreds in attendance including AFGE president, J. David Cox. Richard Trumpka, the president of the AFL-CIO, addressed the crowd as well as several politicians including Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, Senators Sherrod Brown and Mazie Hirono as well as Representatives Chris Van Hollen,Gerry Connolly, Jamie Raskin and Jan Schakowsky.

Regarding Retirement

I decided it was time to retire from the federal government. There were multiple reasons for this decision and no individual reason was the primary factor. Let me just say that a colleague once told me that I would know when it was time to move on and that time has come.

It has been my honor to serve as the AFGE Local 1812 President for so many years and though I am retiring from my federal government position, I remain in the fight as a retired member of AFGE Local 1812 and will stay on as Local President for a while.

There are numerous colleagues I would like to thank for their assistance and support through these many years – so many that I am afraid if I were to start naming names, I would leave some people undeservedly unmentioned. So, I’ll just say that you know who you are, and I thank you all. I especially thank those who were more experienced union members and shared their knowledge of how to draft grievances, unfair labor practices, how to negotiate, and in general how to exercise our rights as union workers without fear because the law allowed us to do all these things. We learn these things from fellow members because management does not want us to know or exercise them. I also want to thank every member, past and present, of AFGE Local 1812 – without the numbers we would have no power.

I deeply believe that the Union movement is important. Most work sites are structured more like a feudal system than a democratic one and the labor movement has allowed a small measure of democracy to be introduced into our working lives. We need more of it.

People who are not independently wealthy and must work for a living deserve to be treated as human beings with human rights. Those rights should not be stripped away when entering the work site. The right of working people to even have a partial say in their working conditions is the result of a long struggle and it is far from over. In fact, it is currently under fierce attack. The limited rights that working people currently have are being methodically ripped away by those who would like to turn back the clock and erase the gains working people have made. We should not take these rights for granted. We cannot depend on some benevolent employer or government to improve our working conditions. We must demand, guard, and expand them ourselves. As Frederick Douglass said “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

The Federal Government should be the model employer and compared to some working people, there are some advantages to working for the federal government. Now there are some powerful forces that are at work to eliminate these advantages. It seems that the rights of workers are under attack everywhere.

It is time for a new infusion of blood, of enthusiasm, and of youth in our Local and for every federal employee union. If you support having the ability to improve your working conditions and to oppose unjust management, now is the time to take on a leadership role in your Local or to join for the first time. It’s a fight worth making.

Timothy Shamble/President
AFGE Local 1812

Victims of Communism Wreath Laying Ceremony 2019

VOC Wreath 06.14.19
The AFGE Local 1812 Wreath. The ribbon reads AFGE Local 1812 and the members of the VOA and OCB

AFGE Local 1812 was there when the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation held the Twelfth Annual Wreath Laying ceremony. The ceremony was held on June 14, 2019 at the Victims of Communism Memorial which is located at the corner of New Jersey and Massachusetts Avenues NW, Washington, D.C.

This year the Truman/Reagan medal was awarded to Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, U.S.A.F. (Ret.) who participated in the Berlin Airlift. He helped deliver more than two million tons of supplies to those in the Soviet blockaded West Berlin. He was best known as the “Candy Bomber”. It was his idea to air drop candy along with other supplies.

AFGE Local 1812 President, Timothy Shamble was there to present a wreath as the representative of the Local and all members from the Voice of America and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. AFGE Local 1812 helped fund the creation of the Victims of Communism Memorial.

VOC 06.14.19
AFGE Local 1812 President, Timothy Shamble presented the wreath

Bad Morale More Than An Inconvenience

Soon, once again, like the arrival of Spring, employees of the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) will be asked to respond to a survey to assess the state of morale at the Agency. This year we should see the announcement next week – a little later than normal – the second full week in May.

Just like in the past a failing grade is almost certainly going to be the result. Since this time last year, the management of the USAGM has made no significant changes that would improve overall morale. There just seems to be no urgency to address the severe morale crisis.

There will be those who will shrug off the USAGM’s failing grade by claiming that the government shutdown hurt morale. But the government shutdown hurt numerous agencies and yet some of those same agencies will show major improvement in their morale while the USAGM will not.

It appears that the upper management of USAGM just simply does not value its employees – at least those rank and file employees that work for the VOA and TV/Radio Marti. They seem to be determined to demonstrate this over and over again. This problem is deeply seated and has been perpetuated over many years. Apparently, to be accepted into the upper management club, you must share if not a total disdain at most an indifference for the rank and file working for the USAGM.

So is high morale of any real importance? It sure seems to be. Studies have shown that in a significant number of instances high morale equals high productivity. This is not a surprise for those in the military. A demoralized army is almost certainly destined to be defeated. In sports, it is not unusual to hear the reason for a team’s failure to succeed and the subsequent sacking of its manager as being due to lack of morale.

Some believe that it makes no difference if they fill in the survey and this is understandable. Year after year the USAGM (formerly the BBG) received failing grades and no substantial changes happened. AFGE Local 1812 believes that there are those that are looking at the results and that it is worthwhile for employees to report their true feelings about the organization. For example in a recent Inspector General’s report (Targeted Inspection of the Governance of the United States Agency for Global Media ISP-IB-19-22 April 2019) it was noted that “USAGM consistently scored below average for the global satisfaction index among medium-size agencies participating in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.” The report indicated that the areas that actually showed improvement included training (especially pointing out supervisory training), employee development, work-life programs, and improvement in the number of supervisors who held discussions with employees regarding performance. We believe that more work in the areas of employee development and work-life programs would help. For instance there appears to be a retrenchment in the area of telework. Telework should be expanded especially in the case where employees are in areas that are being renovated and are potentially dangerous to their health. There are numerous single parents working at the Agency. Why has the Agency refused over and over again to participate in child care facilities for its employees? And why do Agency officials continue to irresponsibly designate as many employees as possible as “emergency employees” and force them to risk their health and safety to come in to the worksite during emergencies? In addition the habit of meting out the most extreme penalties to employees who commit transgressions is unnecessary and ultimately a waste of government resources and cannot possibly help with overall morale. The purposeful under-staffing throughout the Agency (except at the upper ranks of management) lets employees know that management does not care about their health as the stress levels just keep rising. “Less is more” in reality means “less is more stress”.

We encourage all employees to fill out this year’s OPM Employee Viewpoint Survey. Will it help? With others outside the Agency taking notice, we believe that eventually it will.

No More Shutdowns


Photo: J. David Cox leads silent protest

On February 13, 2019 federal employee union members conducted a protest in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC. At approximately twelve noon, the gathering stood silently with arms raised to send a signal to politicians in Washington that another government shutdown would not be tolerated. The silent protest was lead by AFGE President, J. David Cox who was joined by various other Union leaders including AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumpka.

Chanting and signs are not allowed in the Hart Building so the crowd stood silently with arms raised for 35 minutes (one minute for each day of the latest and longest government shutdown). Each minute was marked by the chime of a bell. After 35 minutes applause and chanting erupted with shouts of never again and warnings from the police to the crowd of federal workers to disburse. President Cox promised that if the politicians dared to allow another shutdown to happen he and union members would be in every Senate and Congressional Office every single day until it ended.

Federal workers were either forced to work or were furloughed without pay for thirty-five days starting December 22, 2018. Some employees are still waiting to get their back pay and federal contractors may never receive any back pay for the time they were locked out of work.


Thank You, Walter B. Jones, Jr.’s

The Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station located near Greenville, North Carolina (also known as VOA Site B) sadly lost a key supporter and champion.

Congressman Walter B. Jones Jr. of the 3rd Congressional District passed away on Sunday, February 10, 2019. Thanks to his support the only remaining VOA/Radio Marti shortwave broadcasting station in the continental United States was kept open and operating despite the desire and attempts of some U.S. international broadcasting officials to close it.

Congressman Jones had the foresight and wisdom to understand the important strategic and political value of keeping the Edward R. Murrow Shortwave Transmitting Station open and on the air.

The entire Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station’s management, staff, and technicians deeply appreciate all that he did for us and Eastern North Carolina. North Carolina has lost a truly noble and honorable son.

Below is a link to an obituary.

[Greenville, N.C. by Al Bailey/Steward, AFGE Local 1812(Retired)]


cox shutdown

Day 34 – Still Held Hostage

This is not about keeping a promise. The promise that Mexico will pay for a wall is broken and very unlikely to be fulfilled. Even if a wall is built that was only half of the promise so it won’t be a promise kept anyway. Sooo…

Let’s give the president the benefit of the doubt and accept that he truly believes a wall is necessary. He hasn’t yet said anything to convince anyone of this need. For their part, the Democrats have not said anything yet to convince anyone that a wall isn’t necessary. Most of us are not experts on border security. And the idea that only one side cares about border security is nonsense. Each cares about border security.

Why not form a panel of experts – each side gets to appoint an equal number of members (but it should include at least two rank and file government employees who work in border security) – and this expert panel can debate this issue and hopefully arrive at a consensus that will be acceptable to both sides.

You don’t need to hold our paychecks hostage to get this done.


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.