Foreign Service Journal - November 2013 - page 50

50
NOVEMBER 2013
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
AFSA NEWS
STATE VP VOICE
| BY MATTHEW ASADA
AFSA NEWS
Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA State VP.
Contact:
or (202) 647-8160
Earlier this year, AFSA
celebrated its 40th anni-
versary as a public-sector
union and as the exclusive
representative of the Foreign
Service at the Department
of State, USAID and other
foreign affairs agencies.
(Please see the April 2013
FSJ
for a complete history at
). In this
month’s column I explore the
democratic underpinnings of
our union, its officers and the
collective bargaining agree-
ment, the provisions of which
we are bound to abide by and
uphold.
H I STORY
Prior to the late 1960s
AFSA was exclusively a
professional association
dominated by Senior Foreign
Service officers, who tended
to be leaders in the depart-
ment. However, at the end
of the decade a group of
younger Foreign Service offi-
cers won all of AFSA’s leader-
ship positions through an
election. Following President
Richard Nixon’s executive
order calling for unions in the
public sector, these same
officers decided that adding
the union role would magnify
AFSA’s impact.
A 1970 referendum
affirmed that FS employees
wanted union representa-
tion. In 1972 AFSA competed
against the American Federa-
tion of Government Employ-
ees for exclusive representa-
tive status at State,
Union Democratic Governance: A Legacy Worth Preserving
USAID and USIA, and won by
significant majorities.
AFSA NEGOT I ATES
Pursuant to the Foreign
Service Act of 1980, AFSA
negotiates on behalf of all
bargaining unit members
of the Foreign Service,
regardless of whether or not
they are AFSA dues-paying
members. Even though we
do not have the authority to
negotiate on behalf of For-
eign Service employees who
are not in the bargaining unit,
the vast majority of issues
we handle apply to bargain-
ing and non-bargaining unit
members alike.
AFSA UPHOLDS
THE CONTRACT
In addition to negotiating
the “contract,” the exclusive
representative also upholds
the “contract.” At State
and USAID negotiations are
continuous, and either party
may table a suggestion for
changing personnel policies
and procedures at any time.
Given these “rolling nego-
tiations,” there is no single
comprehensive document,
but rather a series of memo-
randa of understanding
representing the agreements
we have reached relating to
conditions of employment.
AFSA has a number of
ways to enforce this agree-
ment. We can file an unfair
labor practice with the For-
eign Service Labor Relations
Board or an Implementation
Dispute with the Foreign
Service Grievance Board.
Congress also empowered
the exclusive representative
to ensure that all personnel
policies and practices, includ-
ing treatment of individuals,
are in accordance with the
“contract.” To ensure that
any decision reached will not
violate this framework, AFSA
has the right to participate
in any formal discussion
regarding a grievance at the
department, or intervene as
a party to the Foreign Service
Grievance Board.
ELECT I ON OF
UN I ON OF F I C I ALS
Every two years the
Foreign Service bargaining
unit democratically elects
AFSA’s new union officials.
As the AFSA vice president,
I serve as a full-time union
official and negotiate with
the department on behalf
of all State Department
Foreign Service employees.
I am joined on the AFSA
Governing Board by 11 State
representatives, who serve in
a voluntary capacity along-
side their full-time jobs at the
department. Your 2013-2015
AFSA Governing Board is
led by our fulltime president
and comprised of officers
and representatives from the
other foreign affairs agencies.
ACCOUNTABLE
TO YOU
While union governance
may not be the first thing on
your mind, it is important to
understand its democratic
underpinnings. This is your
union and we, as elected
union officials, are account-
able to you.
Over the next year we look
forward to working with the
department to better edu-
cate the Foreign Service on
the rights and responsibilities
of the union as we seek to
make State a better place to
work and serve.
I also encourage all of you
to learn more about AFSA,
get involved and consider
running for union office. Next
month, I look forward to dis-
cussing “Security at State”
with you.
n
The Foreign Service Act of 1980 enshrined the right of the exclu-
sive representative, in this case AFSA, to be present at “(A) any
formal discussion between one or more representatives of the
Department and one or more employees in the unit […] concern-
ing any grievance […] or any personnel policy or practice or other
general condition of employment; and (B) any examination of
an employee by a Department representative in connection with
an investigation if - (i) the employee reasonably believes that
the examination may result in disciplinary action against the
employee, and (ii) the employee requests such representation.”
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