Annual Report 2013 | American Foreign Service Association
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AFSA Annual Report 2013

9

CONSUMER AFFAIRS

The advocacy department has supported the efforts of our

colleagues in labor management to ensure that companies

and government agencies alike recognize the unique situ-

ation of Foreign Service employees and their families, and

honor existing programs that grant them waivers and other

opportunities available to members of the military and other

federal employees. Examples include air travel, health, real

estate, taxes and telecommunications.

DIVERSITY AND EQUALITY

As part of its commitment to protect all Americans against

discrimination in the workplace, AFSA supported S. 815, the

Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013. Introduced

by Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the bill to prohibit employ-

ment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or

gender identity was approved by the U.S. Senate on Nov. 12

and was referred to the following House committees: Educa-

tion and the Workforce; House Administration; Oversight

and Government Reform; and the Judiciary.

FAMILY/DEPENDENT ISSUES

AFSA has been an outspoken supporter of work-life bal-

ance and family-oriented legislation that will benefit federal

employees. AFSA has lobbied for passage of the Federal

Employees Paid Parental Leave Act (currently H.R. 517)

ever since it was first introduced in 2005.

PERSONNEL SECURITY

AFSA continues to emphasize that the best way Congress

can honor the memories of those we lost in Benghazi is to

implement ways to better manage the risks all overseas For-

eign Service staff and their families face. We have reiterated

our strong support for the recommendations of the State

Department’s Accountability Review Board Report on Beng-

hazi, led by Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering and Admiral

Michael Mullen. In line with our longstanding conviction

that training is key to security, we have sought congressional

support for increased funding to enable the Department of

State to increase employee language and security awareness

training (as noted in ARB recommendations 15, 16 and 17)

so that employees are able to carry out their duties, engage

the local population and better recognize, avoid or manage

risky situations.

IRAN HOSTAGES COMPENSATION

The 1979-1981 Iranian hostage crisis is an unforgettable part

of Foreign Service and U.S. diplomatic history. Although

the former hostages and their families received a number

of benefits under various federal programs, in addition to a

cash payment of $50 a day for each day held hostage, they

never received any compensation from Iran through court

action. Having lost their bids in the judicial system to obtain

such compensation, the former hostages have turned to

Congress for relief. AFSA has strongly supported financial

compensation for these brave men and women through

a letter-writing campaign and meetings with members of

Congress. Three bills have been introduced to rectify this

issue: S. 559, Justice for Former American Hostages in Iran

Act of 2013; H.R. 904, Justice for the American Diplomats

Held Hostage in Tehran Act; and H.R. 3200, Justice for

Former American Hostages in Iran Act of 2013.

From AFSA’s November reception on Capitol Hill: Barbara Farrar, Chuck

Fee, Ian Houston, Nancy Rios-Brooks, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Bob

Silverman, Sharon Wayne, Steve Morrison.

PERSONNEL SUPPORT

AFSA has been the leading voice in support of the immedi-

ate passage of H.R. 1781, the Mustafa Akarsu Local Guard

Force Support Act. The act was approved by the Senate in

June 2013 as part of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic

Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. The

original bill was introduced in the House by Committee on

Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas,

and seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act

to provide special immigrant status for the surviving spouse

or child of a U.S. government employee killed abroad in the

line of duty, provided that: (1) the employee had performed

faithful service for at least 15 years; and (2) the principal

officer of a Foreign Service establishment recommends,

and the Secretary of State approves, the granting of such

status. The bill states that this Act shall have retroactive

effect. Although it was approved by the Senate and the bill

seems to have the support of key House Majority leaders, its

future is tied to the larger immigration debate in the House

of Representatives. AFSA will continue advocating for it

during 2014.

STATE/LOCAL ACTION

Recognizing that some of our casework at the state and local

levels can be addressed through executive orders and state

legislation, we are now working on a series of state-focused

initiatives to ensure that our members in every state are on

equal footing with their brothers and sisters in the military

in areas such as driver’s licenses, residency and taxes, among

others.

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