The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2017
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Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA State VP.


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Speaking of Elections

Just when you thought you

wouldn’t have to hear the

word “elections” for a few

more years, it’s time to

talk about the upcoming

elections for the 2017-2019

AFSA Governing Board.

For starters, my job will

be up for grabs. Like the job

of AFSA President, the job of

AFSA State Vice President

is a full-time job that comes

with a time-in-class exten-

sion. While any grade and

any skill code can run for

the position, the wider the

candidate’s experience in

the Foreign Service, the bet-

ter he or she will be able to

do the job.

The State VP is the

head of the union portion

of AFSA (the professional

association side is led by the

president) and, as such, is

the chief negotiator for the


What does that mean in

practical terms? When the

State Department proposes

a new policy or a signifi-

cant change to an existing

policy, the State VP leads

the negotiations on behalf of

FS employees. I’m a politi-

cal officer, but I’ve engaged

in more negotiations during

this assignment than during

any of my overseas postings.

The State VP, along

with the excellent labor-

management staff at AFSA,

is responsible for reviewing

new and revised policies and

determining how best to miti-

gate any potential adverse

impact to our members.

Attention to detail is

crucial, as is a solid under-

standing of and appreciation

for the full spectrum of FS

employees. A policy which

might be great for FSOs, for

example, could disadvan-

tage specialists, or a policy

that sounds like a positive

change might in fact end up

hurting employees at lower

grades, etc.

The State VP main-

tains contact with several

employee organizations and

affinity groups and meets

regularly with the leader-

ship of the Career Devel-

opment and Assignments

Office (HR/CDA), Diplomatic

Security and the Bureau of

Medical Services, to name

a few.

He or she also attends

the monthly AFSA Gov-

erning Board meetings;

participates in periodic

AFSA budget meetings;

coordinates as needed with

counterparts at Agriculture,

USAID and Commerce; and

writes this riveting monthly

column on the topic of his or

her choice.

Every job has its down-

sides, and this one is no

exception. Labor-manage-

ment relations are complex.

It can be frustrating to

see how hard it is to effect

actual change in the depart-

ment, and it’s no fun to

have to tell people that you

weren’t able to get them the

result they wanted.

There’s also a two-year

cooling-off period after you

finish the job, which pre-

vents you from assuming a

leadership position within

HR immediately after serv-

ing as AFSA State VP.

The positives, however,

far outweigh the negatives.

The job is extremely flexible

in terms of work-life bal-

ance, and it provides the

holder with a rare oppor-

tunity to set his or her own

agenda and prioritize which-

ever issues they believe

are most important for the

Foreign Service.

AFSA’s labor-manage-

ment staff are some of the

best colleagues I’ve ever

had, and I genuinely enjoy

coming to work each day

because of them. You learn

a lot about how the State

Department works (for bet-

ter and for worse), and you

get to play a role in making

things better for future gen-

erations of FS colleagues. In

short, your efforts actually


If you’re interested in

becoming more involved but

don’t want it to be your full-

time job, consider running

for a State Representative

position on the Governing

Board—those are all volun-

teer positions, not full-time

jobs. You attend the monthly

Governing Board meetings

and get involved in other

issues as much or as little as

you want in between.

Finally, whether you’re

interested in running for

office or not, please be sure

to vote. It makes an enor-

mous difference who holds

the job of State VP, so you

need to acquaint yourself

with the candidates and

their positions on issues

that matter to you.

Vote for whichever candi-

date you believe possesses

the best judgment when it

comes to protecting your

interests. It matters.


Whether you’re interested in running for office or not,

please be sure to vote. It makes an enormous difference

who holds the job of State Vice President.