The Foreign Service Journal, May 2021

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2021 61 What a Difference a Year Makes An exciting opportunity is at hand! I wrote in the April 2020 FSJ about the importance o f labor management relations. I quoted from Chapter 10 of the Foreign Service Act, dedicated to the topic, which specifies that “the unique conditions of Foreign Service employment require a distinct framework for the development and implementation of modern, constructive, and coop- erative relationships between management officials and organizations representing members of the Service.” To put it mildly, the previ- ous administration’s union- related executive orders and related actions were neither particularly constructive nor cooperative from a union per- spective. That said, I pledged in April 2020 “to doing my best to build, maintain and strengthen this framework for the benefit of the agency’s mission and its people.” I have tried to maintain that pledge, and I very much appreciate the relationship with USAID leadership. But still, what a difference a year makes. On Jan. 22, President Joe Biden signed “Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce” (E.O. 14003). In addition to its reassuring title, the order’s first section affirms this: “It is the policy of the United States to protect, empower, and rebuild the career federal workforce. It is also the policy of the United States to encourage union organizing and collective bar- gaining. The federal govern- ment should serve as a model employer.” I could not agree more— particularly in the case of USAID, where many of our projects strive to strengthen capacity of host country government institutions and their employment models. The United States should set the example. But wait, it gets better. On March 5, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management issued implementation guid- ance for the executive order. Among the guidance areas is one focused on “ensuring the right to engage in collective bargaining.” Though it sounds dry, this section provides guidance to USAID leadership to engage in discussions on matters that are critical to USAID Foreign Service officers. The implementation guidance specifies: “These subjects cover the numbers, types and grades of employ- ees or positions assigned to any organizational subdivi- sion, work project, or tour of duty, and the technology, methods and means of performing work. A failure by agency managers to engage in bargaining over the subjects covered by 5 U.S.C. 7106(b)(1) would be inconsistent with the presi- dent’s directive. Therefore, in order to carry out the policy decision of the President reflected in the EO, agencies must commence bargaining in good faith over all of these subjects.” This is a big change. So big, in fact, that OPM notes: “Because bargaining over these subjects has most recently been at the discretion of the agency, it may be a new experience for some manage- ment and union representa- tives, and OPM is available to provide technical assistance to support implementation of this policy.” What will this mean? Well, time will tell. But, at a mini- mum, this guidance means that AFSA and the agency will have more—and hopefully more constructive—dialogue on topics related to the careers of FSOs, Foreign Ser- vice Limited appointments, personal services contrac- tor hiring, assignments, and increasing the size and impact of the career For- eign Service so that we can achieve our shared goals. If you have ideas on how AFSA can constructively engage under the president’s new directive, please share them. n USAID VP VOICE | BY JASON SINGER AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202) 712-5267 FORE I GN SERV I CE SPOUSES : SHARE YOUR STOR I ES ! The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Train- ing, one of AFSA’s sister organizations, invites spouses and partners of employees in the U.S. Foreign Service to take part in its new spouse oral history project. Your contributions will help ADST shine a light on the vital and changing roles spouses have played in the history of U.S. diplomacy, and should be a fun way to share your experiences with your friends and family. Interviews of spouses center on three areas: Personal background about you—your childhood, family, education and work history; your experience as a spouse at foreign posts; and your experience as a spouse in Washington, D.C., posts. Interview sessions usually last one hour, and sev- eral interviews are typical. ADST has the world’s largest collection of U.S. diplomatic oral history. Its website, , features more than 2,500 oral histories, covering almost eight decades. It also facilitates the publication of books about diplomacy by diplomats and others. To register to participate, please visit: cox-spouse-oral-history-project. n NEWS BRIEF