BY ANGIE BRYAN
As my term of office draws to a close, I have been thinking about the colleagues who took time out of their jobs to help me better understand various issues. The State Department Vice President negotiates on behalf of all State Department Foreign Service employees, regardless of whether they’re FSOs or specialists, married or single, parents or not, and so on.
As a never-married non-parent who is not a minority, I had to get up to speed quickly on a wide variety of issues and remember to think through the possible implications of each issue for all our members, not just a few subsets. In doing so, I relied heavily on several colleagues whom I’d like to thank here.
First, Anne Coleman-Honn of Balancing Act—frankly, the group’s entire leadership. Anne and her colleagues consistently did the heavy lifting for me when it came to drafting proposals to improve conditions for new parents without disadvantaging other employees, and they repeatedly impressed me with how quickly they came up with articulate input when I asked for their perspective.
I remain horrified and embarrassed by how antiquated the department’s policies are when it comes to parental leave and related benefits, but having colleagues like the leaders of Balancing Act gives me confidence that the fight will not end with my departure.
Along similar lines, Mark Evans, head of the recently formed employee organization Foreign Service Families With Disabilities Alliance. Transferring from post to post is challenging for any Foreign Service family with children, but exponentially more so when one or more of those children have special needs.
Mark founded an organization to unite employees facing those challenges and has served as an effective advocate for their concerns, educating me and being a real partner when brainstorming the best way forward.
I’m also grateful to Regina Jun and Kerri Hannan of GLIFAA, who were invaluable in helping me troubleshoot on certain issues. Mary Ellen Tsekos-Velez and Charlotte Nuanes of the recently formed employee organization Working In Tandem did the same when it came to tandem issues.
Chris Le of the Asian American Foreign Affairs Association was a close partner in AFSA’s work on assignment restrictions, as well as our efforts to reduce unconscious bias.
I had to get up to speed quickly on a wide variety of issues and remember to think through the possible implications of each issue for all our members.
Speaking of unconscious bias, I would be severely remiss if I did not acknowledge Jennifer Harris Baxter, who not only helped open my eyes to the issue, but who then volunteered a significant amount of her personal time to drafting an in-depth paper on the topic. As a result, hundreds of colleagues around the world began discussing the issue and considering possible implications for the Foreign Service.
On the AFSA Governing Board, retired colleagues Bill Haugh and Dean Haas both filled in for me when I missed three months of work after emergency open heart surgery. They didn’t get paid for doing so, but they treated it like their own job.
Lawrence Casselle walked me through several issues involving the Bureau of Diplomatic Security; Susan Danewitz displayed extraordinary patience when helping me understand information resource management issues and Tricia Wingerter did a phenomenal job of representing office management specialists’ interests and concerns.
Jason Donovan was my go-to person when it came to achieving the right tone in messages to the field, and also stepped in for me on a negotiation.
I cannot end this message without also acknowledging the AFSA staff who gave me a crash course in labor law and saved me from stumbling on multiple occasions. General Counsel Sharon Papp and Deputy GC Raeka Safai were at my side through every negotiation, providing crucial advice and wording that enabled us to protect our members’ rights and interests.
Labor-management attorneys and advisers Zlatana Badrich, Neera Parikh, Colleen Fallon-Lenaghan, Jason Snyder, James Yorke and Patrick Bradley not only handled the bulk of member inquiries and cases, but also helped me scour proposed policies for potential problems. Executive Assistant Jaya Duvvuri made sure nothing fell through the cracks, including my energy level.
Without question, the very best part of my day every day for the last two years has been getting to work with such incredible people who genuinely enjoy helping our members.
Thank you, all.