The Foreign Service Journal, March 2020

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2020 65 editor campaign aimed at reminding Americans about the important work of U.S. diplomats on behalf of the United States. Year after year, the number of letters has increased, with more than 50 published in local newspa- pers across the country in May 2019. During the day preceding Foreign Service Day, AFSA headquarters is open to our members for a full day of programming, including the ever-popular free profes- sional headshots. The Retirement Services section of the website was updated in March 2019 and continues to serve as perhaps the most complete option for one-stop infor- mation on Foreign Service retirement resources. Finally, the AFSA Scholar- ship program awarded more than $500,000 to the chil- dren of AFSAmembers for art and academic merit as well as financial aid scholarships. Labor Management Between July 2017 and July 2019, AFSA’s Labor Man- agement office opened 803 individual cases and closed 613 cases. Overall, during the two-year period, LM handled approximately 1,304 cases, many of which were opened prior to July 2017. The office also received 3,389 requests for assis- tance. Approximately 30 percent of these requests for assistance turn into indi- vidual cases. On the State Department side, AFSA signed a new framework agreement more than 30 years after the previ- ous one had been signed. In spite of President Trump’s executive orders directing agencies to curtail official time and paid office space to Civil Service unions, the new agreement preserves 100 percent official time for the AFSA president and State vice president as well as free office space and use of department telephones and the email system. While there is still much to be done, we made great progress on Special Needs Education Allowance imple- mentation.Working with HR Deputy Assistant Secretary StevenWalker and the new Office of Medical Services director, Dr. Mark Cohen, LM helped create a new Foreign Affairs Manual provision (in 3 FAM 3280) that offers a sup- portive regulatory framework for SNEA and protects Foreign Service families against the subjective interpretations previously employed, often to their detriment. The State Department and AFSA negotiated a three- year Meritorious Service Increase pilot program that is nomination-based, allowing MSIs to be awarded to a greater population of employees, rather than restricting them to only those reviewed for promo- tions in any given year. The pilot ended in 2019, and the parties are reviewing the results and have begun negotiations on the future of the MSI program. Thanks to LM’s advocacy, the department incorporated unconscious bias princi- ples—i.e., stripping nomina- tions of gender identifiers— in the 2019 MSI nomination process. LM also has success- fully advocated on behalf of employees adversely affected by incidents in both Cuba and China on several fronts: 1) We gained parity between the two groups, specifically the inclusion of the China group in recur- ring meetings between the Cuba cohort and MED; 2) We secured administrative leave for the China group following the provision of such leave to the Cuba cohort; and 3) We secured the department’s agreement to offer a classi- fied briefing to both groups. AFSA successfully filed an implementation dispute against the State Depart- ment after MED refused to invite AFSA to an official meeting, as it was required to do. As a result, the depart- ment agreed to notify those offices involved, three times a year for two years, of their obligation to include AFSA in any formal meetings. AFSA also successfully filed a cohort grievance on behalf of locally hired Foreign Service employees who attended long-term training of six months or more at FSI but were not assigned to FSI, and thus did not receive locality pay. Relying on a prior AFSA win, AFSA was successful in obtaining back locality pay plus interest for 105 employees. AFSA also secured more than $50,000 for 49 new DS agents who were promised overtime pay during a two-week period in which they had to bus 90 miles to and from the DS training center in Blackstone, Va., every day. AFSA filed a series of implementation disputes against the department when it failed to award Meritori- ous Service Increases to all employees ranked but not reached for promotion (up to a 10-percent cap the parties had agreed to) in 2014, 2015 and 2016. While we prevailed before the Foreign Service Griev- ance Board in the 2014 MSI dispute (as we did in an early dispute regarding the 2013 MSIs), the Foreign Service Labor Relations Board unfor- tunately granted the depart- ment’s appeal and vacated the FSGB’s decision in the 2014 dispute. The department then argued that this decision bound the FSGB’s decision in the 2015 and 2016 MSI disputes. The FSGB reluc- tantly agreed and dismissed the two remaining cases. AFSA filed an appeal with the FSLRB in late September 2019 and is awaiting a deci- sion from that board. Finally, AFSA filed a cohort grievance regarding the Secretary’s failure to recom- mend any Presidential Rank Awards between 2014 and 2017. This is an issue that potentially impacts all of the foreign affairs agencies. The department filed a motion to dismiss the grievance, arguing the Secretary had GOVERNING BOARD REPORT 2017-19 AFSA NEWS