Foreign Service Journal - June 2013 - page 10

JUNE 2013
FSOs and undercutting the Foreign Ser-
vice’s ability to influence policy discus-
sions and decisions—but then tilts at
I don’t know how this situation can
be turned around, or if it can. But I do
know that Phil Habib made the case
to then-Secretary of State Cyrus Vance
at the onset of the Carter administra-
tion, and made it stick. I also know that
when the Reagan administration came
to office with partisan blood in its eye,
David Newsom failed to stand up for the
Foreign Service.
The senior career officer at a time of
transition has a critical role, but whether
he or she can overcome or reverse this
political encroachment is another matter
entirely. Still, the main problem is not
with the Foreign Service as an institution,
but with the political ideologues at the
policy checkpoints.
Jack R. Binns
FSO, retired
Tucson, Ariz.
Becoming a Union
Many people today seem somewhat
confused about why AFSA decided to
become a union. More than four decades
ago, it was no secret why the initial
undertakings were so full of acrimony—
management people throughout Foggy
Bottom wanted a contract similar to that
of the American Federation of Govern-
ment Employees, instead of rolling
The use of office space was in conten-
tion, and there were a large number of
unfair labor practices. AFSA was operat-
ing with a skeleton crew, so many of us
had to serve as advisers and attorneys
while continuing to do our regular jobs.
What has AFSA accomplished as a
union? Some things that readily come
to mind are framework issues: pursuing
unfair labor practices, selection panels,
precepts, insurance, transportation and
storage, grievances and more. We have
handled all those matters while also
doing our utmost to establish profession-
alism within the Foreign Service.
Besides launching
The Foreign Service
, we have dealt with membership
and chapter issues and matters pertain-
ing to the headquarters building at 2101
E Street NW. We also counseled selected-
out personnel who regularly graced “For-
eign Service Park”—as the little green space
across fromheadquarters was known.
There are surely many who could add
to this list of achievements, such as Tom
Estes, a key player who began laying the
groundwork for our function as a union.
In response to recriminations against
AFSA members with union roles, many of
us became labor union experts and labor
One elected AFSA president had to be
recalled. Yet even during traumatic peri-
ods, the union part of AFSA continued
to function smoothly. (It was also during
that time that AFSA had its first female
president.) These matters all need to be a
part of our history as a union.
Roy A. Harrell Jr.
FSO, retired
Ozona, Texas
Though AFSA purchased its cur-
rent headquarters in 1967, as reported
in “Paving the Way for Unionization”
(April), it was the 1965-1967 AFSA Gov-
erning Board, chaired by Dave McKillop,
that carried out that transaction, not
the 1967-1969 board chaired by Lannon
Walker. As the article noted, the Walker
board did complete work on the new
Foreign Service Club that opened in the
building in March 1969.
We regret the error.
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