The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), established in 1924, is the professional association of the U.S. Foreign Service and serves as the exclusive bargaining agent for 26,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees of the Department of State and the Agency for International Development, as well as smaller groups in the Foreign Agricultural Service, the Foreign Commercial Service and the International Broadcasting Bureau. AFSA’s missions are to increase effectiveness of the Foreign Service, protect the professional rights of its members, ensure maintenance of high professional standards and promote understanding of the critical role played by the Foreign Service in advancing U.S. national interests. It publishes the monthly Foreign Service Journal, presents annual awards for distinguished service and keeps Congress aware of the concerns of its members.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), founded in 1932, is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 federal and Washington, D.C.-based government workers nationwide and overseas. AFGE Local 1534 represents Civil Service Bargaining Unit employees of the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). Local 1534 describes its mission as “to (1) secure good and improved working conditions of covered employees; (2) secure and assure fair and decent treatment by agency management of individual covered employees; (3) represent covered employees in relation to agency management for purposes of securing desirable working conditions and proper individual treatment; and (4) promote desirable group activities, among covered employees, so as to promote the social, economic and cultural good of these employees, and the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.”
Established by Dean Rusk in 1967, the Secretary’s Open Forum is headed by an elected chairperson who serves directly under the Secretary of State and is charged with bringing new or alternative policy recommendations to senior levels from employees of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The Open Forum arranges periodic speaker programs and manages the process by which employees are given the opportunity (as Department regulations put it) “to express professional views (including dissenting views) candidly, free of bureaucratic constraints, and under safeguards against pressures or penalties.”
In addition to the organizations listed above, the State Department has a number of informal and formalized “affinity groups.” Its “careers” website provides information on eight of them: the Asian Pacific American Federal Affairs Council; Blacks in Government, Foreign Affairs Chapters; Disability in Foreign Affairs Agencies; the Foggy Bottom Society; Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies; the Hispanic Employees Council of Foreign Affairs; the Thursday Luncheon Group and the Young Professionals Society (YPro).