The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 7 You Are AFSA: AFSA Needs You BY ER I C RUB I N Ambassador Eric Rubin is the president of the American Foreign Service Association. PRESIDENT’S VIEWS A s we look forward to a new year with sincere hopes for peace, health, and security, we do not mourn the end of 2022, a year that saw the return of large-scale war and suffering to the European conti- nent, the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, and the increasing evidence of climate change affecting much of the world. We, America’s professional diplomats and international development specialists, can be proud of our efforts to defend and advance our country’s security and pros- perity and the cause of peaceful settle- ment of disputes, which is the central meaning of diplomacy. This new year is also an important one for AFSA. We celebrate the 50th anniversary of AFSA as the labor union and sole legal bargaining agent for the Foreign Service of all six foreign affairs agencies and departments—the Depart- ment of State, U.S. Agency for Interna- tional Development, Foreign Commer- cial Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Ser- vice, and U.S. Agency for Global Media. One by one, beginning in 1973, FS employees of the agencies elected AFSA as their bargaining agent, starting with the State Depart- ment. In the Jan. 26, 1973, letter to AFSA board chair William Harrop, Secretary of State William Rog- ers writes: “Having received notice from the Executive Secretary of the Employee- Management Relations Commission of the certification that the American Foreign Service Association received a majority of the valid votes cast in the rep- resentation election among the eligible Foreign Service employees of the Depart- ment, I hereby accord recognition to your organization as exclusive representative. “I am confident that the constructive and cooperative relationship between management officials and the orga- nization representing Foreign Service employees envisioned by Executive Order 11636 will be our mutual goal under the exclusive recognition granted by this letter.” Ambassador Tom Boyatt, who was part of the AFSA team that led the way to unionization, tells this story as only he can, of how AFSA went from a polite diplomats’ society to a strong union and powerful advocate for the career Foreign Service. This is also AFSA’s 99th year, and we are planning events and initiatives to mark not only AFSA’s centennial in 2024, but also the centennial of the modern U.S. Foreign Service, created by the Rogers Act of 1924 that merged the dip- lomatic and consular services into one new federal corps. There is an additional reason why 2023 is important: It is an election year for AFSA. Every two years, our members choose the governing board that oversees AFSA’s mission and work. This year, we are heading into the election period with a series of proposed reforms to our bylaws that aim to take into account the changes in how we work and live in a world altered by pandemic and technology. I strongly urge AFSA members to approve the proposed amendments as part of this election. The proposals were carefully considered before being issued, and the current board strongly believes that each will make the associa- tion stronger. We have taken the lessons of the last few years and attempted to apply them to AFSA’s governance going forward. To that end, we suggest amendments relating to board meeting participation; the voting period for AFSA elections (reflecting the almost-exclusive use of online voting); making an allow- ance of board continuity during public emergencies; and updating old language that no longer appropriately describes how AFSA operates today. An important proposed bylaw amendment would allow certain board representatives to serve from overseas. Until now, all AFSA Governing Board members have been required to be There is an additional reason why 2023 is important: It is an election year for AFSA.