The Foreign Service Journal, March 2021

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2021 69 AFSA NEWS AFSA NEWS THE OFFICIAL RECORD OF THE AMERICAN FOREIGN SERVICE ASSOCIATION Please check for the most up-to-date information. All events are subject to cancellation or rescheduling. March 4 1-2 p.m. Webinar: “The View fromWashington” March 10 12-1 p.m. “The Dissent Channel: What You Should Know” March 15 Deadline: AFSA Scholarship Applications March 17 12-2 p.m. AFSA Governing Board Meeting April 5 Deadline: 2021 High School Essay Contest April 21 12-2 p.m. AFSA Governing Board Meeting May 6 AFSA Foreign Service Day Virtual Programming May 7 Virtual Foreign Service Day May 13 12 p.m. AFSA Governing Board Election Town Hall May 19 12-2 p.m. AFSA Governing Board Meeting CALENDAR Nearly a year ago, on March 16, as the COVID-19 pandemic upended work routines across the globe, AFSA closed its offices and instructed its employees to telework. “AFSA operations have gone remarkably smoothly during the pandemic.We all miss interacting personally with our colleagues and mem- bers, but the business of AFSA has carried on,” says Executive Director Ásgeir Sigfússon. “We moved our events online to great success, have adjusted to be able to onboard newmembers virtually and have continued our high level of member services, ranging from everyday requests to the assistance of our Labor Management team,” Sigfús- son adds. Here is a look at how vari- ous AFSA sections have fared during the pandemic. Labor Management. AFSA’s Labor Management office continues to work with members, many of whom are overseas, by phone or email, according to Deputy General Counsel Raeka Safai.“The majority of our staff deals with grievances, and so they have managed to seamlessly transition to working from home with little disruption,” she says. LM has fielded many pandemic-related inquiries about authorized departure, the vaccine and other issues. But its regular caseload has remained steady, Safai says. LM also attends Diplomatic Security investigations, which were moved to Zoom for months. That proved a chal- lenge, Safai says. “During these investiga- tions, there is an advantage to ‘reading the room,’ the body language, and to sit next to your client to gauge how they are feeling and when it is time for a break or discus- sion,” Safai says.“Obviously, we can’t do that as easily via Zoom, but we have managed, and have sat in on numerous DS investigations during this past year.” Recently DS started conducting these meetings in person again. Membership and Out- reach. AFSA has moved all its membership recruitment efforts online, says Christine Miele, director of programs and member engagement. AFSA has traditionally invited members of each incoming class to its head- quarters for a luncheon with retired and active-duty mem- bers of the Foreign Service, including the AFSA president and staff. A high percentage of the attendees joined AFSA after these in-person lunches. Because of the pandemic, AFSA shifted membership recruitment efforts to Zoom, but Miele says it has been harder to reach potential newmembers virtually. “We continue to think of new ways to make virtual recruitment closer to the personal connect of in- person lunches, and we AFSA at Work Through the Pandemic Continued on page 77 AFSA Meets with Secretary of State Blinken AFSA President Eric Rubin and AFSA State Vice Presi- dent Tom Yazdgerdi met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a virtual meeting on Feb. 1. The new Secretary reached out to AFSA and other unions in response to President Joe Biden’s direc- tive to restore and enhance cooperation with all federal workplace unions. Also participating from the State Department were Acting Under Secretary for Management Carol Perez, State Department Coun- selor Derek Chollet, the Sec- retary’s Chief of Staff Suzy George, and Deputy Chief of Staff Tom Sullivan. n