The Foreign Service Journal, June 2003

28 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U N E 2 0 0 3 have read with appreciation and zest the wonderful recollections of Tex Harris and Hank Cohen elsewhere in this issue about that very creative period three decades ago when AFSA became a union. Those were indeed heady days, when our joint efforts, and those of many colleagues, per- manently changed the Foreign Service for the better. As we look back on those events, however, each of us — like the aging samurai in “Roshamon” — remembers the reality slightly differently. Here is how I saw it. The years 1971-73 witnessed four major battles for the future of the Foreign Service: the fight over the form that white-collar union- ism would take in the Service; the AFSA Governing Board elections of 1971; the elec- tions for exclusive employee representation in State, USAID and USIA in 1972-73; and the struggle to bring the managements of those agen- cies to the bargaining table in good faith thereafter. The protagonists in all four battles came from the following four groups. On the far left (for lack of a better term) was the American Federation of Government Employees. AFGE, affiliated with the AFL-CIO, favored a union structure that excluded all “managers” (which meant almost all Foreign Service officers, according to their definition) from the bar- gaining unit, and focused strictly on typical shop- steward issues: allowances, working conditions, etc. This was the system embodied in E.O. 11491, which then governed Civil Service federal employees in other government departments where AFGE was the exclusive employee representative. AFGE’s position was also driven by the knowledge that it would lose any representation election in which FSOs could par- ticipate. The next set of protagonists, moving toward the center, was a group of FSOs based on the Junior Foreign Service Officers Club led by Bob Maxim and Lars Hydle. Like AFGE, the JFSOC wanted the Foreign Service union structure to closely parallel the Civil Service structure, a la E.O. 11491. They also reject- ed as a “cop-out to paternalism” the discussions of the Charles Bray-led AFSA Governing Board with Under Secretary for Management Bill Macomber in 1971 about a union structure controlled by the Secretary of State. This group formed the nucleus of the “Members’ Interests Slate” that ran in the AFSA elections of 1971-72. Occupying the center was a new iteration of the “Young Turks.” Reform-minded FSOs such as Bill Harrop and Tex Harris, both members of the incumbent Bray Board, were joined by a group more clearly identified with support for a union system independent of State management and based on a friendly but adversarial labor-management relation- ship; these included myself, Hank Cohen, Jim Holmes and others. This group became known as the “Participation Slate.” Our members had the major influence on the details of the new union structure eventually pub- lished as E.O. 11636; contested and narrowly won the hard-fought 1971-72 AFSA elections; defeated AFGE F O C U S O N A F S A’ S 3 0 Y E A R S A S A U N I O N AFSA B ECOMES A U NION : F OUR B ATTLES AFSA’ S VICTORIES 30 YEARS AGO PAVED THE WAY FOR THE PROGRESS IT CONTINUES TO MAKE TODAY ON BEHALF OF ITS MEMBERS AND THE F OREIGN S ERVICE . B Y T OM B OYATT I