The Foreign Service Journal - September 2016
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Sharon L. Papp






Meet the AFSA Labor Management Team

Who We Are

AFSA is both a professional

association and a labor

union. While members tend

to be familiar with the activi-

ties of the professional side

of AFSA (i.e., the


Service Journal

, the annual

awards ceremony and out-

reach to raise awareness and

appreciation for the Foreign

Service), they may not be

as familiar with the work of

AFSA’s labor management

(LM) staff.

The LM staff carries out

AFSA’s union activities under

the direction of the elected

agency vice presidents (AFSA

has elected VPs for State,

USAID, Foreign Agricultural

Service and Foreign Com-

mercial Service) or elected

agency representatives

(with a current vacancy for

the Broadcasting Board of


The staff consists of five

attorneys, two labor man-

agement advisers and two

support staff. Collectively, we

have more than 100 years of

experience at AFSA.

What We Do

The Foreign Service Act

created a unique bargaining

unit that includes supervisors

and employees performing

many different functions

(e.g., political officers, doc-

tors, information manage-

ment specialists, diplomatic

security agents and consular


As a union, AFSA has the

legal right, as well as the legal

responsibility, to act for and

negotiate collective bargain-

ing agreements covering all

employees in the bargaining

unit, regardless of whether

they pay dues to AFSA.

The vast majority of

Foreign Service employees

are members of the AFSA

bargaining unit. Those who

are not (for example ambas-

sadors or deputy chiefs of

mission) still benefit from the

agreements AFSA has made

with the various Foreign Ser-

vice agencies; most agree-

ments apply equally to all


For example, LM has nego-

tiated procedural precepts

for the selection boards,

grievance and discipline

regulations, and open assign-

ment rules, which apply to

all members of the Foreign


In addition to negotiating

on behalf of all of the mem-

bers of the Foreign Service,

AFSA also assists individual

members with a number

of issues, including griev-

ances; security clearance

issues (including assignment

restrictions); Diplomatic

Security, Office of Inspector

General and Office of Civil

Rights investigations; dis-

cipline cases; and Account-

ability Review Board proceed-

ings, to name a few.

Because employees may

hire a private attorney or

represent themselves in such

issues, only AFSA dues-pay-

ing members are eligible for

these types of LM services.

Why We Do It

Everyone is

entitled to due

process. One of the

objectives of the

Foreign Service Act

is to ensure a “fair

and effective system

for the resolution of

individual grievances

that will ensure the

fullest measure of

due process

for the

members of the For-

eign Service (empha-

sis added).”

According to

AFSA’s bylaws

, the most

important purposes and

objectives of AFSA are: “To

further the interests and well-

being of the members of the

association” and “to repre-

sent members of the Foreign

Service of the United States,

in accordance with Chapter 10 (Labor-Management Rela- tions) and 11 (Grievances)

of the Foreign Service Act of


In its role as a labor union,

AFSA negotiated the rules

relating to how employees

are counseled and how their

performance is evaluated. It

is the LM staff’s responsibility

to “police” these agreements,

ensuring they are honored for

everyone, including employ-

ees who did not meet perfor-

mance requirements or who

have engaged in misconduct.

Similarly, the discipline

regulations, which AFSA

negotiated with the foreign

affairs agencies, require the

agencies to follow the precept

of “similar penalty for like

offense” and to take mitigat-

ing factors into account when

determining an appropriate


If you have a grievance

or other concern, AFSA’s LM

staff may be able to assist

you or contact the relevant

agency on your behalf. Before

contacting AFSA, we recom-

mend that you attempt to

resolve the problem infor-


If you have been unable

to do so, contact AFSA’s

LM team to see how we can

assist you



This is the first in a new

series from the LM team. If

there is any LM-related topic

you would like more informa-

tion about, please contact

Associate Editor Gemma




We will try to address your

questions in a later column.


—Sharon L. Papp,

General Counsel