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70

JULY-AUGUST 2015

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

Farewell as State Vice President

STATE VP VOICE

| BY MATTHEW ASADA

AFSA NEWS

Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA State VP.

Contact:

asadam@state.gov

| (202) 647-8160 | @matthewasada

When I began my term as

AFSA vice president, a col-

league asked me to explain

some basic facts on what

AFSA is, whom it represents

and how it works. From that

conversation, it became clear

that raising awareness of the

association among its own

membership (not to mention

Congress and other partners)

would need to be a priority.

Now, as I complete my

term two years later, I want

to reflect on those basic—

yet critical—questions, and

specifically on the people of

AFSA, the policies it advocates

and the programs it runs.

People:

AFSA is under-

pinned by a long history of

democratic union governance

(See the November 2013 AFSANews).

A professional associa-

tion and union with 16,500

dues-paying members, AFSA

is led by an elected Governing

Board comprised of active-

duty and retired Foreign

Service members. The board

sets policy, approves the

budget and selects an execu-

tive director who manages

the association’s 36-person

professional staff.

The president chairs the

Governing Board and autho-

rizes AFSA post representa-

tives, elected by members

at post, to interact with post

management on employees’

behalf. The vice presidents

negotiate with agency

management; in my case, I

engaged with the Department

of State. The president and

vice presidents are full-time

Foreign Service members

detailed to AFSA.

One measure of an organi-

zation’s health is the number

of members running for board

positions or serving as post

representatives. In my four

years on the Governing Board,

AFSA has seen an increase in

the number and diversity of

members running for election

or applying for board vacan-

cies. This trend is indicative of

increased member awareness

and a growing interest in mak-

ing AFSA service part of one’s

career.

Policies:

Last year, AFSA

celebrated 90 years as a

professional association, and

this year marks its 42nd as a

union. Although members of

the Service, per the Foreign

Service Act, are unable to

strike, the most important tool

at AFSA’s disposal is the right

to collectively bargain.

AFSA regularly exercises

this right on policies and prac-

tices affecting performance

management (e.g., core and

procedural precepts), public

speaking and social media,

and danger pay, among

others.

In instances when we are

unable to reach agreement

with management, or feel

it has violated a negotiated

labor agreement, we may

take the issue to the impasse

panel or appeal to the Foreign

Service Grievance Board.

Such was the case with 2013

and 2014 Meritorious Service

Increases, 2014 Overseas

Comparability Pay collection

payments and the depart-

ment’s improper implementa-

tion of a post policy without

AFSA consent.

In addition, we recom-

mended and saw through new

appointments to the Foreign

Service Impasse Disputes

Panel and the Foreign Service

Grievance Board during my

term.

We are developing a new

Foreign Service Institute

course to better educate the

department’s leaders, manag-

ers and employees about

FS labor relations. And we

ensured that the department

transmitted AFSA’s “State of

the Foreign ServiceWork-

force” Section 326 report to

Congress for the first time in

15 years (see the June AFSA News).

I am especially proud of

the organization’s work on

diversity, including starting a

discussion on reform of the

assignment restriction and

pass-through programs. Our

proposal to introduce an inde-

pendent appeals mechanism

would ensure that all mem-

bers of the Service have an

equal opportunity to serve.

Programs:

AFSA serves

its members frommultiple

locations. Most professional

staff sit at AFSA headquarters;

however, the 10-person labor

management office is at Main

State. Two staff members

work out of USAID.

In the last two years, we’ve

hosted numerous events from

these locations, including

breakfasts for chiefs of mis-

sion, a mid-termmembers’

meeting, skill-code themed

lunchtime conversations and

holiday receptions.

We connected virtually

through webinars with post

representatives and skill-code

cohorts, and launched a new

website to better interact with

all of our members. Finally, we

visited members in the field,

domestically and overseas, to

hear their concerns directly.

Today, increased member

interest in AFSA is enhancing

the Foreign Service experi-

ence around the world. It has

been an honor to serve as

your vice president these last

two years and as a member

of the board for the last four.

Thank you for your support

as we worked to make the

department a better, safer

and more rewarding place to

serve.

I look forward to continuing

my involvement and affiliation

with AFSA—our voice for the

Foreign Service.

n

Today, increased member interest in

AFSA is enhancing the Foreign Service

experience around the world.