The Foreign Service Journal - December 2013 - page 42

42
DECEMBER 2013
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
AFSA NEWS
FAS VP VOICE
| BY DAVID MERGEN
AFSA NEWS
Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FAS VP.
Contact:
or (202) 720-3650
The Foreign Agricultural
Service was one of the agen-
cies hardest hit agencies by
the shutdown, with most of
its employees furloughed
from the first day. Unlike our
counterparts at State and
the U.S. Agency for Interna-
tional Development, FAS did
not have a source of money
free of fiscal year restrictions,
funds that could be used
to delay shutting down the
agency.
During this uncertain time,
AFSA’s leadership and pro-
fessional staff worked with
other government unions and
allies in Congress to ensure
that furloughed employees
would receive retroactive pay
for the time the government
was closed.
While Congress approved
back pay during the last
shutdowns in 1995 and 1996,
this time there was no guar-
Surviving the Shutdown (On Back-Pay)
antee that this would be the
case. Furloughed employees
had serious concerns about
how they would pay their bills
in the event of an extended
shutdown.
Among the questions I
received from colleagues
overseas was how to apply
for unemployment compen-
sation. Although the agency
sent the necessary forms to
posts, employees were faced
with the daunting prospect
of having to apply in person
at their state’s employment
office back in the States.
AFSA’s leadership and
its advocacy team were at
the forefront of the effort by
the Federal-Postal Coalition
(representing nearly five
million federal and postal
employees) in addressing the
issue of back-pay. The coali-
tion quickly mobilized behind
the bipartisan proposal to
provide retroactive pay, intro-
duced by Representatives
James Moran, D-Va., and
Frank Wolf, R-Va. On Oct. 5,
the House passed the back-
pay legislation unanimously,
greatly easing the anxiety
of furloughed employees
and virtually ensuring that
it would be included in the
final agreement to end the
shutdown.
Likewise, AFSA was instru-
mental in mobilizing support
for the legislation’s Senate
companion bill, introduced
by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md.
In the end, the proposal was
included in Congress’s shut-
down compromise. Getting
the message to members of
Congress in a rapid, well-
coordinated way was critical
to securing retroactive pay
for federal employees.
Although FAS represents
a relatively small part of the
Foreign Service community,
AFSA and its professional
staff are looking out for
the interests of all Foreign
Service employees. This is
increasingly important as we
endure attacks on federal
salaries and benefits, and
face the possibility of a sec-
ond shutdown at the start of
2014.
n
Although FAS represents a relatively
small part of the Foreign Service
community, AFSA and its professional
staff are looking out for the interests of all
Foreign Service employees.
Please Join Us at AFSA’s
Holiday Open House
December 13, 3 to 5 p.m.
AFSA Labor/Management Office
Harry S Truman Building
Room 1251
DONNAAYERST
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