The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), established in 1924, is the professional association and labor union of the United States Foreign Service. With over 16,500 dues-paying members, AFSA represents more than 32,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees of the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), Foreign Commercial Service (FCS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
AFSA's principal mission is to be the voice of the Foreign Service in all ways. The top-level strategic goals are (1) workforce planning to guarantee a healthy and full Foreign Service career, (2) inreach to engage the membership and better understand the priorities and concerns of the Foreign Service, and (3) outreach to the public in order to enhance understanding of the role and importance of the Foreign Service among key audiences.
Among its professional activities, AFSA publishes the monthly Foreign Service Journal, presents an annual set of awards, organizes programs of speakers on foreign affairs, maintains meeting facilities for its members, provides a college scholarship program for Foreign Service children and offers a variety of specialized programs and discounts to its members. AFSA's advocacy and government affairs department coordinates efforts to keep Congress aware of the concerns of the Foreign Service and of active and retired Foreign Service personnel.
AFSA is the exclusive bargaining agent for the Foreign Service employees of the Department of State, USAID, FAS, FCS, APHIS, and BBG. In this labor-management relations capacity, AFSA negotiates with the management of the principal foreign affairs agencies on personnel policies and practices affecting members' working conditions. AFSA also represents members in formal grievance proceedings, office of security and inspector general investigations, and EEO cases, while providing them informal assistance in dealing with administrative problems.
Foreign Service retiree concerns are an integral part of the AFSA agenda. AFSA works closely with retired Foreign Service personnel on legislative issues related to retiree pensions and benefits. Retirees, individually and through independent retiree groups around the country, actively promote the Foreign Service and international engagement in their communities.
In its efforts to explain the Foreign Service's role and to build domestic constituencies to support its activities, AFSA operates a speakers bureau, which makes experienced diplomats available to speak to a wide range of groups all across the country. Under the auspices of the Road Scholar organization, AFSA members conduct continuing education programs on the Foreign Service.
Who Can Join AFSA?
We welcome all current and retired members of the Foreign Service at our member agencies. In addition, spouses and partners of deceased members of the Foreign Service may join AFSA at a special rate. Finally, we welcome anyone with an interest in the Foreign Service and foreign affairs as associate members of AFSA. Click here to join.
In 1918, the American Consular Association was founded to represent the interests of the members of the Consular Corps. In 1924, the Consular Corps was combined with the Diplomatic Corps to form the Foreign Service of the United States. In the same year, the Consular Association reconstituted itself as the American Foreign Service Association.
AFSA was founded "for the purpose of fostering an esprit de corps" among the members of the Foreign Service and has served as a professional association for Foreign Service employees in the Department of State, later in the Agency for International Development and the United States Information Agency and more recently, the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture. Even during these early years, the Association published The Foreign Service Journal, sponsored a wide variety of speakers from all walks of diplomatic and professional life, and commissioned studies on professional problems and future prospects of the Foreign Service.
Over the years AFSA has expanded its services to members, adding special insurance programs tailored to the needs of the Foreign Service, a Scholarship Program for Foreign Service dependents, a speakers bureau and additional member benefits. In 1968, with the purchase of the property on the corner of 21st and E Streets, adjacent to the State Department, the Association moved its business offices to this address and opened the Foreign Service Club for AFSA members.
After a series of executive orders signed by President Nixon gave progressively greater rights to federal employee organizations that wished to engage in collective bargaining, AFSA's board and members began to grapple with the issue of becoming a trade union. In 1971, the Governing Board polled the members in a referendum and 86 percent urged AFSA to seek exclusive recognition as a union.
AFSA filed a representation petition in May 1972, and the battle for exclusive recognition was begun when the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) filed a month later. An election was conducted, and AFSA won overwhelming majorities in State and AID, and a narrow majority in USIA. After a long period in which they were represented by AFGE, USIA Foreign Service employees reestablished AFSA as their exclusive representative in an election held in the fall of 1992. The next year, at the request of Foreign Agricultural Service and Foreign Commercial Service employees, AFSA began a successful campaign to be named the exclusive representative for those two agencies. In 2013, AFSA was selected as the exclusive representative for Foreign Service employees at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
AFSA's labor-management role was affirmed with the passage of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, which incorporated many important reforms urged by the Association. The negotiation of regulations implementing the Act's hundreds of provisions, and the monitoring of regulations already agreed upon, is an important component of AFSA's role as employee representative.