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First of all, this “one woman” was

Alison Palmer, who did more for a gen-

eration of Foreign Service women, both

employees and dependents, than anyone

on earth. Second, far from knowing her

“slightly,” Amb. Harrop had worked with

Ms. Palmer in the Bureau of Intelligence

and Research for more than a year.

When Ms. Palmer was vice consul

in Leopoldville (in what was known as

Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of

the Congo) in the early 1960s during the

Lumumba uprising, she was informed

that Deputy Chief of Mission Frank

Carlucci had been kidnapped by rebel


Because this happened in her con-

sular district, Alison piled into her car

and sought out the rebel camp. Without

further adieu she accosted the (mostly

drunk) soldiers and, asserting her author-

ity, demanded that they turn over their

hostage to her. They did.

Later, when AFGE with Alison Palmer

sought to disqualify Ambs. Harrop, Tom

Boyatt and Hank Cohen in a jurisdic-

tional contest, on the grounds that they

were in management positions within

the meaning of E.O. 11636, Harrop found

her actions to be “disgraceful.” In other

words, Alison Palmer fought a serious

contest using laws, regulations and public

department policies—and Bill Harrop got

his feelings hurt.

Some background: After spending

most of the 1960s abroad, I returned to an

assignment in the Economic Bureau via

the Foreign Service Institute’s econom-

ics course. My carrel mate at FSI was

Lannon Walker, then AFSA chairman. I

had always been interested in employee-

management affairs and the Department

of State was seething with such matters at

that time.

Like Walker, I had a good deal of con-

cern with what you might call “nuts and

bolts” issues, such as pay comparability

with the Civil Service, career tenure,

selection out, rating of wives on Officer

Evaluation Reports and the lack of a

grievance system.

In 1970, I became a member of

American Federation of Government

Employees Local 1534, and eventually

chief steward. I remained a member of

AFSA, as I had been since 1960 (and am

to this day), and was invited to sit on the

AFSA grievance committee in 1971.

But when I described my AFGE

union activities to my AFSA colleagues,

I found them incredulous that a fellow

white, male, upper-middle-class FSO

would be involved in the tawdry busi-

ness of grievances, brought by what

might be termed malcontents or losers.

Truth be told, I never realistically

expected AFGE to represent the Foreign

Service in labor/management affairs.

Most FSOs’ mothers had been fright-

ened silly by John L. Lewis, Walter

Reuther and others in the American

labor movement.

My activities, along with those of

scores of other AFGE members and

sympathizers, helped move AFSA in the

direction of modifying its elite image

and taking on the grubbier issues of

tenure, OER reform, rights for Foreign

Service women and the establishment

of a credible grievance system. To a

large extent these objectives have been


Harrison Sherwood

FSO, retired

Cambridge, England


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