AFSA Statement on Planned Holiday Events at the Department of State

For Immediate Release
December 4, 2020
Contact: Executive Director Ásgeir Sigfússon |

Washington, D.C. – The American Foreign Service Association is very concerned to see reports of plans to host holiday parties with hundreds of invitees at the Department of State.

Celebrating the season by spending time with friends, colleagues and family is a time-honored tradition, but this year has to be different due to the pandemic. The Department’s leadership has urged embassies and consulates around the world to host only virtual holiday gatherings this year. It is therefore disconcerting to hear of these plans, which not only go against the Department’s own guidelines but also health regulations in Washington, D.C. and the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While attendance at these events is not mandatory for invitees, the same is not true for State Department employees and contract catering workers. The catering workers often do not receive health insurance from their employers and must staff these events in order to keep their jobs.

We urge the Department to reverse course and model responsible behavior in accordance with its own guidelines.

AFSA, the voice of the Foreign Service, is the professional association and labor union of the U.S. Foreign Service. Founded in 1924, AFSA represents 31,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees at the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, Foreign Commercial Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, the U.S. Agency for Global Media, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.