AFGE is asking Congress to intervene in the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB)’s plan to lay off employees, including union stewards. Thirteen employees were already laid off in February.
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) operates Radio and Television Martí, which transmits objective news and information to the people of Cuba, the country where privately owned press is prohibited, and the media is closely monitored by the government.
The budget for the OCB, however, has been severely cut from nearly $29 million in FY2017 to $13 million in FY2023. Among those who have been laid off or are about to be laid off are numerous members and officials of AFGE Local 1812, which represents the US Agency on Global Media (USGAM). Two union officials are slated to be laid off next month.
Meanwhile, the office has retained supervisors who no longer have any workers to supervise. The USAGM is also spending money to fill highly paid positions in its CEO office, while refusing to transfer funds to minimize layoffs at OCB. The hiring of a senior advisor to the CEO for OCB was disturbing to employees as more senior management was added but rank and file employees were cut.
“The critical mission of broadcasting information and hope to the Cuban people is suffering,” said AFGE Director of Legislation Julie Tippens in a letter to House and Senate appropriators. “Budget cuts have forced broadcasts to be halved and diminished the ability to create new content.”
President Biden requested $15 million for the office in his 2024 budget, but AFGE’s asking that the OCB be funded at the fiscal 2017 level, which adjusted for inflation would be $35.75 million.
AFGE is also asking Congress to require that the USAGM and OCB prioritize funding to avoid layoffs and to encourage USAGM to use its fiscal 2023 transfer authority to minimize layoffs and help bridge the gap to fiscal 2024.