The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2014 - page 54

54
JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2014
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
AFSA NEWS
STATE VP VOICE
| BY MATTHEW ASADA
AFSA NEWS
Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA State VP.
Contact:
or (202) 647-8160
In the summer of 2011 a
small magazine issued a call
to “Occupy Wall Street.” The
purpose was to highlight the
growing income inequality
in America. Demonstrators
railed against the “1 percent,”
the financial elite, and its co-
option of the financial system
to the detriment of the work-
ing class. Members of the
“99 percent” staged sit-ins
in various cities around the
world to highlight abuses and
call for change.
ZUCOTT I PARK
In November of that year,
I visited Zuccotti Park in
New York City, ground zero
of the Occupy movement.
People from across the U.S.
were there—some from labor
movements, others indepen-
dent actors—all motivated by
a common cause.
I was impressed by the
socioeconomic and ethnic
diversity of those present
and captivated by their
conversations, amongst one
another and with their Wall
Street “foes.” I returned to
Washington, D.C., inspired by
their conviction and action,
and more conscious of their
underlying message.
However, within the year,
the protesters had dispersed
and the leaderless movement
had run aground. Occupy
Wall Street had failed, prov-
ing that an idea and rallying
call was not enough to elicit
change; a social movement
needed leaders and institu-
tions to succeed. Occupy was
Occupy AFSA: Get Involved
dead—or was it?
Two years later, I visited
New York again. The city had
just elected its new mayor
Bill de Blasio, whose platform
promised a more progressive
and inclusive city. His cam-
paign had tapped into the
lingering discontent and con-
cern about income inequality
that OWS had articulated two
years earlier.
George Packer had won
the National Book Award for
his exploration of the theme
in
The Unwinding
, and Pope
Francis had issued his own
clarion call for economic
justice. Occupy may have lost
a name, but its spirit lived on,
inspiring Americans who had
never been political or social
activists, to take action.
Personally, it challenged
me to think more about what
AFSA could do to get more
people involved in improv-
ing the Foreign Service’s
professional standing and
the working conditions of its
members.
IMPROV I NG
UNDERSTAND I NG/
PART I C I PAT I ON
Our Foreign Service cul-
ture is consensus-oriented
and rarely has shown any
activist tendencies—with
one notable exception: the
unionization of the Foreign
Service 40 years ago (see
).
However, today, there is a
general lack of understanding
about what AFSA is (yes, it is
a “real” union), what it does
and why it matters. There is
also a general apathy within
its ranks, whether evidenced
by the low voter numbers or
the paucity of candidates for
AFSA office (last summer, the
State vice president position
was the only one contested,
the remaining positions ran
unopposed).
Of the approximately
14,000 Foreign Service
employees worldwide, less
than 1 percent currently
serve as AFSA elected
officers, Governing Board
representatives, post rep-
resentatives or committee
participants. This group rep-
resents the Foreign Service in
a labor-management context,
negotiating all Foreign Ser-
vice terms of employment.
They are democratically
accountable to you through
the election and appointment
process.
WHAT DOES
AFSA DO?
On your behalf, an AFSA
post representative might
meet with post management
to discuss the mission’s
compliance with departmen-
tal regulation and federal
law governing premium
compensation for untenured
employees. In Washington,
an AFSA State representa-
tive might meet with col-
leagues to discuss concerns
regarding career paths for
the new Diplomacy 3.0 or
Diplomatic Readiness Initia-
tive generation. An AFSA Vice
President might meet with
agency officials to negotiate
new clearance procedures
or advocate for employees’
ability to write and speak in a
private capacity.
Given the limited number
of individuals involved, and
the impact these people can
have on negotiating employ-
ment policies, it is important
that they are representative
of the entire Foreign Ser-
vice, knowledgeable about
labor relations and human
resources, and held in high
regard by membership.
Simply put, AFSA needs
a greater diversity of candi-
dates (women, specialists
and minorities) who have
labor management and
human resources expertise.
AFSA needs the Foreign
Service’s best and bright-
est to represent it vis-à-vis
department management, on
the Hill or with the American
public. It also needs its mem-
bers to hold it to account.
THE CAL L
As we begin 2014, I chal-
lenge you to think more
about AFSA and how you can
get involved with your union
and professional associa-
tion. Later this year, when
AFSA solicits interest for
State representatives, post
representatives or commit-
tee volunteers, please think
about stepping up, serving
and “occupying” AFSA.
Next month: Improving the
Quality of Work/Life.
n
1...,44,45,46,47,48,49,50,51,52,53 55,56,57,58,59,60,61,62,63,64,...100
Powered by FlippingBook