Category Archives: Locally Employed Staff

US Embassy Ottawa: Canadian Court Sets Aside FSN Sandra McDonald’s $240K Default Judgment For Now

– Domani Spero

Via Ottawa Citizen, a wrongful dismissal case filed by Sandra McDonald, a former Foreign Service National (local employee) of the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.

Sandra McDonald, now in her early 60s, worked at the embassy for nearly 30 years as one of its locally engaged staff. She sued for wrongful dismissal after she was fired in early 2011 while on long-term disability with complex regional pain syndrome.

McDonald’s lawyer, Bijon Roy, said she was “very disappointed” with the judge’s decision and that it might force her to fight the case all over again.

In July 2012, Ontario Superior Court Justice Heidi Polowin issued a default judgment in McDonald’s favour after U.S. officials failed to file a statement of defence or contest the case in court. The embassy had been served notice of the case through Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and was kept informed of the matter on a regular basis. McDonald’s story also received high-profile coverage from Ottawa media, including the Citizen.

In court this week, embassy officials, seeking to overturn the default judgment, said they had “explicable and plausible” reasons for not having responded to McDonald’s lawsuit, and a “good defence” to be made against it. According to court documents, the Americans claimed that they’d “lost the documentation”, “could not open the email attachment”, that the documentation was “inadvertently directed to the wrong office at the State Department”, and that it was “not indexed correctly”.

Superior Court Justice Timothy Ray questioned how U.S. State Department officials could claim not to have been aware of McDonald’s default judgment. “Its embassy apparently failed to see the front page of the Ottawa Citizen (on) Sept. 11, 2012,” the judge commented.
[...]
Ray said he would set aside Polowin’s default judgment on conditions the embassy pay McDonald’s legal costs and put the $240,000 award in a court trust within the next 60 days.

Read in full: U.S. Embassy wins bid to set aside wrongful dismissal judgment.

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US Embassy Venezuela: Local Employee Miguel Cartaya Killed in Caracas

– Domani Spero

We posted recently about the US Embassy Caracas where three embassy officials were given 48 hours to leave the country (see Venezuela (Where Almost No One Has Toilet Paper) Kicks Out Three U.S. Diplomats for “Flaming” Student Protests).

The anti-government rallies has been roiling Venezuela for days with people expressing their grievances against high inflation, crime, and the shortages of staple goods such as toilet paper, milk, rice and cooking oil.  According to CNN, four anti-government protesters and one government supporter have died in clashes around the country. 

Amidst these chaos, local news reported yesterday that a former official of the Bolivarian National Police (BNP) who worked for the security office of the US Embassy in Caracas was killed at 4:30 in the morning during an attempted  robbery.

Local reports identified the employee as Miguel Angel Borges Cartaya, 39. He reportedly was  found at the bottom of a ravine with multiple gun shots wounds.

One report says that the victim was working escort duties at the American Embassy in Caracas.  Relatives cited in the report also said that the victim was leaving his house when he was attacked by several armed men who were after his belongings.  He was reportedly shot when he resisted.

The Regional Security Office’s 2013 Crime and Safety Report notes that violent crime is the greatest threat in Caracas, affecting local Venezuelans and foreigners alike.

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We are so sorry to hear this news.  This has been a tough couple of weeks for local embassy staff.  On February 12, we blogged about the death of an FSN working at USCG Peshawar (see USCG Peshawar Employee Faisal Saeed Killed in Pakistan).  On February 13, we posted about the arrest and detention of an FSN working at US Embassy Cairo (see  US Embassy Cairo FSN Ahmed Alaiba Detained Since 1/25–State Dept Still Seeking “Clarity”).

We have sent an inquiry to the US Embassy Caracas but received no response.

Our unofficial source in the country confirmed to us that Miguel Cartaya was an FSN, working at the Embassy as a security guard.  At this point, there apparently is no reason to believe the shooting is related to his work at the Embassy, but rather a sad fact of daily life in Caracas, which has one of the highest murder rates in Latin America. We will have a blog update if we learn more.

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US Embassy Cairo FSN Ahmed Alaiba Detained Since 1/25–State Dept Still Seeking “Clarity”

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– Domani Spero

Cairo Post reported on February 11 that Egyptian National Security arrested a local employee on Jan. 25 who works for the U.S. embassy in Cairo.  On February 12, NYT’s David Kirkpatrick has additional details:

Security forces have detained an Egyptian employee of the United States Embassy who worked as a liaison to the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian news reports said Wednesday, stirring fears of pressure on Western diplomats who communicate with the Islamist opposition.

Embassy officials said the employee, Ahmed Alaiba, was detained on Jan. 25, the third anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising here, and he has been held without charges since then.
[...]
An Egyptian government official briefed on the case said Mr. Alaiba was under investigation for both participating in an illegal demonstration and “communicating with an outlawed group.”
[...]
Mr. Alaiba, an Egyptian citizen, has no diplomatic immunities. But some Western diplomats said that the leaks to the Egyptian news media about his arrest appeared to convey a message to them as well. Many diplomats were already wrestling with fears of possible retribution from the military-backed government if they continued meeting with Brotherhood officials as they did before the takeover.

Questions about Mr. Alaiba’s arrest made it to the State Department’s Daily Press Briefing with Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf. This FSN has been detained since January 25. Besides repeating what has already been reported in the news media, Ms. Harf could only promise to “see if we have more clarity on this.” Eighteen days after the embassy employee was detained, Ms. Harf could not even say what was this employee’s job at the embassy?!

Typically, the local employees who do work overseas like Mr. Alaiba’s are political assistants or political specialists. These are fairly common jobs in diplomatic missions.  We do want to know what the former DCM, now  Chargé d’Affaires Markc Sievers is doing about the detention of a member of his embassy’s staff?  Yes, he’s Egyptian, and a local employee, and he’s one of ours.  If uncorrected, this could become a dangerous precedent. Anyone who works for the U.S. government in Egypt who talks to MB officials or supporters or other opposition figures could just be thrown into jail without charges or some spurious ones.

In some dark corners of the net, the conspiracy theorists are already busy. This is apparently proof of President Obama’s secret support for the Muslim Brotherhood.  Which just shows how little people know about what our official representatives do overseas.  Our diplomats and local employees talk to host country governments and opposition parties/figures around the globe.  What they learn help inform the decisions that our government makes.  This happens whether there’s a Democrat or a Republican in the White House. Some of the folks our officials talk to are not very nice, some are corrupt, some would not even think twice about stabbing us in the back. But that’s the world we lived in.  To expect that our government officials should only talk to the government in power is idiotic, that gives us only half the story. It also makes it impossible for our people to do substantial work when the levers of power change hands.  So, do think about that when you hear about these nutty stuff.

Now, can we please have somebody at the podium who wears a hat or sash that says, “Clarity is my name” whether it snows or not?

Excerpt below from the greatest mid-day show in town:

QUESTION: I wanted to start by asking about the Embassy employee in Cairo who was arrested for his liaison with the Muslim Brotherhood. First off, what is the reaction of the State Department? What’s being done, I assume, to have him released, if he hasn’t been released already? And then if you could talk a little more broadly about whether or not the State Department or the Administration believes that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization, and what this says about dealing with a government in Cairo that is refusing to recognize such a significant part of the population in Egypt.

MS. HARF: Absolutely. So we can confirm that a locally employed staff member of the U.S. Embassy was detained on January 25th and that, as far as we understand, he has been held without charges since then. We have been in touch with the Government of Egypt and have requested additional information about his case. The locally employed staff member was detained, I think, over a weekend on January 25th while off-duty, as I think maybe you mentioned.

The United States does not – has not designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. We have been very clear in Egypt that we will work with all sides and all parties to help move an inclusive process forward. We’ve also repeatedly, both publicly and privately, called on the interim government to move forward in an inclusive manner. That means talking to all parties, bringing them into the process. We’re not saying what the future government should look like specifically other than that it should be inclusive. That, of course, includes the Muslim Brotherhood. We will continue talking to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as part of our broad outreach to the different parties and groups there.

QUESTION: So if he was arrested or detained anyways off-duty, is it your understanding he was – he is being detained because of his liaison with the Muslim Brotherhood, or was there another reason to your understanding?

MS. HARF: Let me see if we have more clarity on this. I’m not sure we have entire clarity about the reasons for his continued detention. Let me check with our folks and see. Again, I’m not sure if we know exactly why he’s being detained.

QUESTION: Because otherwise, I mean I’m sure other employees at the Embassy are – would be reluctant to liaise with the Muslim Brotherhood or any opposition groups that the current government in Cairo seems to not look upon favorably. And –

MS. HARF: Let me see – oh, sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. No, and so I just wonder, as you say, how the Obama Administration and the State Department is going to continue reaching out to the Muslim Brotherhood. How will they do that if employees are being arrested and there’s certain penalties that people have to face in doing so.

MS. HARF: Well – yeah. No, it’s – to be clear, I’m not saying that that was the reason for his detention. I would need to confirm that with folks.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I actually haven’t heard that, so let me check and see that.

Again, he was a locally employed staff member. Our folks that are on the ground there have been talking to the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups as well. So let me see two things if I can get a little more clarity about the reason for his detention and also what his job was at the Embassy. I just don’t have all that clarity.

QUESTION: Okay. So would an American official at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo be able to liaise with the Muslim Brotherhood? I assume they have been.

MS. HARF: Well, they certainly have been. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: And again, I’m not sure that was the reason for his detention. So before we sort of take this – I’m happy to check and see if we just have some more clarity on that.

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US Consulate Ciudad Juárez Murder Trial Now On Going in El Paso

– Domani Spero

We’ve blogged previously about the US Consulate -related slayings in Ciudad Juarez in 2010.  The victims of that tragic incident were El Paso County sheriff’s detention officer Arthur Redelfs, his wife Lesley Ann Enriquez Redelfs, who worked at the U.S. Consulate in Juárez, and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros, husband of Hilda Salcido who also worked at the consulate.

El Paso Times’ Diana Washington Valdez has covered this case from the beginning. According to EPT, the jury was selected on January 31, 2014:

Jury selection gets underway today in the trial of an alleged drug cartel enforcer accused of taking part in the slayings of three people associated with the U.S. Consulate in Juárez in 2010.

Arturo “Benny” Gallegos Castrellon, who pleaded not guilty, claims in court filings that he confessed to the crime because he was tortured and his wife raped by Mexican police before he was extradited to the United States in 2012.
[…]
U.S. officials have not offered a clear motive for the three slayings in 2010, except to suggest that the killers might have confused the victims for rivals. Evidence from the trial may shed light on why the trio was attacked.

The three victims had left a children’s party in Juárez attended by consulate employees and their families, and were in two separate vehicles, Redelfs and his wife in one, and Salcido in the second vehicle. Both vehicles were white in color.

Shooters, who were also in separate vehicles, followed the two white cars and shot them up in Juárez near the Stanton Street bridge.

Read more here.

Catch up on the trial below — see links to the El Paso Times coverage:

Juarez consulate killings: Opening statements begin
02/03/2014 – The government presented opening statements this morning in the trial of Arturo “Benny” Gallegos Castrellon, an alleged drug cartel enforcer accused of taking part in the slayings of three people associated with the U.S. Consulate in Juarez in 2010.

US Consulate trial: Barrio Azteca gang member recounts killings during Juarez cartel war
02/04/2014 - A Barrio Azteca gang member gave bone-chilling testimony Monday about his role in the violence that ignited Juarez during the drug cartel wars and left among its victims a U.S.

Juarez consulate trial: FBI agent says the accused never told him he was tortured in Mexico
02/05/2014 - The defendant in a federal trial accused of conspiring to kill three people linked to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez in 2010 did not tell FBI agents that Mexican police tortured him…

Juarez consulate killings: Witness says Barrio Aztecas were trained by Zetas cartel
02/05/2014 - A Barrio Azteca gang member turned government witness testified Tuesday that his gang had received training on how to become better killers from the notorious Zetas drug cartel.

Juarez consulate trial: Relative of kingpin Vicente Carrillo Fuentes testifies
02/07/2014 – A relative of Mexican drug kingpin Vicente Carrillo Fuentes testified Thursday as a government witness in the federal trial of Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, an alleged Barrio Azteca leader accused of conspiring to kill three people with links to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez.

El Paso Barrio Azteca gang helped arm counterparts in Juarez
02/08/2014 – Barrio Azteca gang members in El Paso provided firearms and ammunition to counterparts in Juarez and used women as drug mules to smuggle heroin into the United States, said former gang members

US Consulate trial: DEA source set up secure network for Juarez cartel
02/11/2014 – A telecommunications specialist from Mexico testified Monday that he helped set up a secure radio network for the Barrio Azteca and La Linea members in 2010 that was used to relay orders to kill …

US Consulate killings trial: Witness says defendant ordered the slayings
02/12/2014 – A Barrio Azteca member who admitted taking part in the March 2010 slaying of three people with ties to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez testified Tuesday that Arturo Gallegos Castrellon gave the order…

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USCG Peshawar Employee Faisal Saeed Killed in Pakistan

– Domani Spero

Pakistani news reports that two gunmen riding a motorcycle opened fire on Faisal Saeed, 30, outside his residence in Peshawar.  Senior police official Najibur Rehman reportedly identified Saeed as a former employee of the U.S. consulate in Peshawar, but the U.S. embassy in Islamabad said he was a staff member.

“Local authorities are investigating a tragic incident that has affected a Pakistani national U.S. Consulate Peshawar employee,” a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said in a statement. “We strongly condemn this brutal and senseless death, and express our heartfelt condolences to the family,” she said.

WaPo also reported yesterday that Saeed, worked as a computer programmer at the consulate and was active in updating its Facebook page.  The report citing a friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of safety concerns, said Saeed “was talking on his phone outside of his house when two armed men shot him and fled.”

“Pakistani officials refused to speculate whether Saeed was targeted because of his affiliation with the U.S. government.”

Peshawar has been called the most dangerous post in the Foreign Service and has been in de facto draw-down during the last five years.

In 2013, the Regional Security Office released its annual Crime and Security Report detailing various attacks against post:

Western targets, in particular U.S. diplomatic premises, personnel, and vehicles, have been attacked repeatedly in Peshawar over the past several years. In 2010, the U.S. Consulate weathered a direct assault. In May 2011, a Consulate motorcade was attacked with a car bomb in the University Town neighborhood. In September 2012, another Consulate motorcade was attacked in the same neighborhood utilizing a sophisticated surveillance network and a suicide car bomb, which resulted in numerous casualties and property damage. In November 2012, two separate indirect fire (IDF) incidents were directed at the Consulate’s University Town housing compound. A number of Consulate residences sustained minor damage, and one Consulate guard was injured.

The report also notes the anti-American sentiment in the country and the apparent rise of terrorist acts in Peshawar.

Northwest Pakistan–consisting of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KP), the provincial capital of Peshawar, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)–is a dangerous place for all Westerners and especially American citizens. The Abbottabad raid in May 2011 that captured and killed Osama bin Laden, the 2011 NATO action on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border that resulted in the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers, and the 2011 Raymond Davis incident have inflamed anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. In 2012, there were numerous anti-American protests, including large-scale demonstrations and protests against the anti-Islamic movie, “Innocence of Muslims.” The overall number of terrorist acts in the “settled areas” of Peshawar and KP Province appear to be on the rise, particularly with attacks against local commercial and government facilities.

Active links added above.  The U.S. Consulate General Peshawar was headed by senior DS agent Robert Reed from 2012 to 2013.  In fall 2013, he was succeeded by Gabriel Escobar as consul general.  Mr. Escobar previously served as Team Leader of the State Department’s PRT in Kirkuk Province, Iraq in 2009 and 2010.

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State Department Annual Awards – 2013 | Foreign Service Nationals

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– Domani Spero

The State Department Annual Awards include the top Foreign Service National employees from six geographic areas.  The winners for 2013 came from the following post: US Embassy Harare, USCG Jerusalem, US Embassy Manila, US Embassy Kabul, US Embassy Belgrade and US Embassy Bolivia/USAID.

Click on maximize view icon max iconon the lower rightmost end of the ScribD screen to read in full screen.

 

 

 

 

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Diplomatic Security Wiki: All Things DS — Deaths, Heroism, Authors, Videos and Black Dragons

– By Domani Spero

 

One of our readers pointed us to a new wiki on all things Diplomatic Security.  DS Wikipedia is described as “an unofficial, non-US government affiliated wiki for both the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Diplomatic Security service – more commonly known as DS.”

Updated on 10/1 at 10:02 am – The site’s name has been changed to Diplomatic Security Wiki - http://www.diplomaticsecuritywiki.com; a contact page has also been added for the wiki administrator.

Why was it created?  “This Wiki was created to provide a common location to put information that would not meet Wikipedia normal submission guidelines. Specifically, it was originally created to hold a page for DS affiliated personnel who were killed in the line of duty. Although originally on Wikipedia, the page was deleted by editors because it was considered to be a memorial page.

Its Bureau of Diplomatic Security Personnel Killed in Action page includes not just direct-hire employees, but also local guard force (LGF) casualties and security contractors killed in the line of duty. An overwhelming number of casualties are local guards and security contractors. It includes the names of local guards killed in the attack of US Embassy Lebanon in 1983, and those who perished in the East Africa embassy bombings in 1998.  The last few entries include Mustafa Akarsu, a local guard killed during a suicide bombing at US Embassy Ankara this year, Qassim Aqlan, a local RSO investigator assassinated in Sana’a, Yemen in 2011, and three yet unnamed contract security guards killed during a rocket attack at the US Embassy Iraq compound in 2010.

The wiki’s Host Country Police Killed in Action Defending US Facilities includes the identities of the three Turkish National Police who died during a shootout with attackers at the US Consulate in Istanbul on July 9, 2008. It also includes the names of the two Uzbek National Police who died defending the US Embassy during a suicide attack on July 30, 2004. Unfortunately, with the attack on the US Consulate in Herat on September 13, 2013, this site’s volunteers will need to add one more name on this list and eight names to the KIA page. (US Consulate Herat Casualties: One Afghan Police, Eight Local Guards Killed).

The wiki also has a list of Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent Heroism Award Recipients.  And there’s a link to Diplomatic Security Service Agents Turned Author.  Another section in the wiki includes links to Videos of Diplomatic Security Mentions in Film and TV.  Below is George Clooney playing Jim Byrd who claims to be working for the Diplomatic Security Service while recruiting Chuck Barris in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002).

And long before FS bloggers discovered the “tigers” who occasionally go after them, Diplomatic Security has its own “black dragons.”

The DS Wiki has an entire page dedicated just for Black Dragons – Slang For Anti-Security Department of State Management

As referred to by DS personnel, “Black Dragons” are senior Department of State personnel with the ability to influence Diplomatic Security programs and personnel. Black Dragons view security as the antithesis of diplomacy. In the history of Diplomatic Security, Black Dragons have reduced personnel ranks whenever possible, gave away protective responsibilities for Heads of State/Heads of Government to the USSS in 1971[1] and formally considered shutting down DS field offices and giving the investigative role of DS to the FBI.[2][3][4]

The investigation into the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens during the 2013 Benghazi attack highlights the negative effects of the black dragons on security. Security support was minimized or eliminated in Libya despite repeated requests from the US Mission to maintain additional security personnel.

We have never seen a State Department public list of  non-American employees/US contractors killed in the line of duty.  While the names of US contractors sometimes make the news, non-US casualties typically do not.  This wiki page does not include the name or names of its administrator or volunteers so there’s no easy way to contact them.  But whoever thought to create this wiki and put in the hours of labor deserves our thanks for trying to account for the individuals who gave their lives protecting our posts overseas.

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US Mission Kenya: USAID FSN’s Wife Ruhila Adatia-Sood Killed at Westgate Mall Attack

–By Domani Spero

USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah released a statement on the Westgate Shopping Mall attack in Nairobi that killed a member of US Mission Kenya’s extended family.  USAID FSN Ketan Sood’s wife, Ruhila Adatia-Sood, a presenter for East FM as well as an entertainment host for Kiss TV, was one of the 68 people killed in the attack at Nairobi’s Westgate mall.  The couple married in 2012 and she was pregnant with their first child.

According to local news, Ruhila was at the parking lot of the upscale mall for Sungold Sunrice Superchef, a cooking competition sponsored by the rice brand and East FM, which she was hosting at the mall. Read more here.

Below is Dr. Shah’s statement:

Via USAID | Sunday, September 22, 2013

Washington, DC: Dozens of people died yesterday at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi in a terrorist attack that was shocking in its brutality and brazenness.  Among those killed was a member of our own extended family: Ruhila Adatia-Sood, wife of Ketan Sood, a Foreign Service National at our Mission in Nairobi. Ruhila was several months pregnant with their child.

The thoughts and prayers of our entire Agency are with Ketan, his family, and his fellow citizens in these profoundly difficult days. Ketan has worked for nearly four years as a Senior Acquisition and Assistance Specialist with our Mission. In 2013, he was Embassy Nairobi’s Foreign Service National of the Year in a reflection of his unfailing efforts to support his colleagues and the communities we serve in Kenya and across East Africa. His wife, Ruhila, was a popular radio and TV personality, who was known throughout Kenya for her passion, vibrancy, and gift for making people smile.

Our entire community has been shaken by this loss and an abhorrent act of violence in a city where so many of us have lived and in a country that so many of us love. Every day, our Agency’s development professionals come to work in some of the most challenging and dangerous circumstances in the world. Although days like this shake us to the core, they do not change our steadfast commitment to mission or our determination to work for a more peaceful and just future. We continue to keep the people of Kenya in our thoughts and prayers. Now more than ever, we are committed to stand with our own colleagues and the Kenyan people as they mourn and support them as they recover.

(;_;)

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State Dept Wants To Protect Labor Rights in the Global Market Place – Smart Power in Action, Really …

– By Domani Spero

 

To mark Labor Day, Barbara Shailor, the State Department’s Special Representative for International Labor Affairs blogged on September 2 over at DipNote about “Protecting Labor Rights in the Global Market Place.”  We also marked labor day with a blog post on the State Department’s refusal to talk about granting labor rights to its local embassy employees worldwide (see State Dept on Embassy Workers Unionization: Yo! Could Put U.S. National Security at Risk).

We should admit upfront that Ms. Sailor’s blog post is definitely the most worthwhile read of the two.  After all, who can argue against “protecting the dignity of workers everywhere” as “the right investment?” Or fault the “history of the labor movement in the United States — and of workers everywhere — [... ] the story of courageous men and women who persevered and risked their lives to bring dignity to their work?”  This American value is a laudable export to the  global market place. Last year, Ms. Shailor also had a labor day message for everyone.

This year, we again applaud the State Department’s commitment  “to doing everything we can to advance labor rights in the global economy.” We are republishing Ms. Shailor’s blog post in full in appreciation of smart-power pretense affectation.

For over a century, we’ve set aside a day to honor the contributions of workers. The cookouts, shopping sales, and parades are end of summer American rituals.  But the significance of Labor Day – advocating for the dignity of work — is, and always will be an American value.

Promoting labor rights and improving working conditions is a smart economic investment — essential to driving growth, ensuring its benefits are broadly shared, and delivering decent jobs for the American people.

Protecting the dignity of workers everywhere is also the right investment.  The goal is to create not just more growth, but better growth.  That means ensuring all workers enjoy certain universal labor rights, including the freedom to associate and effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, and prohibitions against the worst forms of child labor and forced labor, and employment discrimination.

Much of the world is still experiencing high unemployment, a lack of opportunities for youths, discrimination towards women, disabled persons, and LGBT individuals, and the growth of disenfranchised migrant workers and refugees.  This exacerbates already volatile situations in many countries.

By combating the root causes of poverty and helping countries provide a prospect for decent work we can better hope to achieve our foreign policy goals: stability, security, democracy, and prosperity for all.  We cannot build a stable, global economy when hundreds of millions of workers and families find themselves on the wrong side of globalization.

Secretary Kerry captured the importance of protecting rights in the global market place in his address at the University of Virginia, where he said:

“I’m here because our lives as Americans are more intertwined than ever before with the lives of people in parts of the world that we may have never visited. In the global challenges of diplomacy, development, economic security, environmental security, you will feel our success or failure just as strongly as those people in those other countries that you’ll never meet…it also gives us many more rivals determined to create jobs and opportunities for their own people, a voracious marketplace that sometimes forgets morality and values.”

The history of the labor movement in the United States — and of workers everywhere — is the story of courageous men and women who persevered and risked their lives to bring dignity to their work.

Today, we celebrate the sacrifices and successes of workers everywhere, and commit to doing everything we can to advance labor rights in the global economy.

 

Excellent example of talking the walk but not walking the talk.  Brava! Can we have more, please? File under the “hypocrasy” tag. And no, that’s not a misspelling.

😳

 

 

 

 

 

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State Dept on Embassy Workers Unionization: Yo! Could Put U.S. National Security at Risk

– By Domani Spero

Eric Katz via govexec.com: State Department Says Unionizing Its Foreign National Workers Would Threaten Security

The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers — a union housed within the AFL-CIO — reached out to the State Department about the possibility of unionizing more than 40,000 “locally employed” staff in foreign countries. State responded that it does not have the legal grounds to seek a collective bargaining arrangement with the employees.

Additionally, the State Department said it simply had no interest in seeking to unionize the employees.

“Such unionization at diplomatic and consular missions is fundamentally incompatible with the basic functions and operations of such missions,” Steven Polson, State’s chief labor-management negotiator, wrote in the letter.

He added unionization “could, frankly put our foreign relations and national security at risk.”  

According to govexec, Mr. Polson cites the potential “logistical nightmare” of collective bargaining with foreign nationals paid under 176 different local compensation plans. And apparently,  “labor laws in certain countries prohibit their citizens from maintaining union representation.”

The report also said that Mr. Polson “encouraged foreign national employees to join “[locally employed] staff associations,” which could “meet regularly with post management to discuss concerns and resolve issues” and declared the “department has no interest in pursuing this discussion further.”

n 2009, Eddy Olislaeger, a veteran FSN at the US Embassy in Brussels founded the International Foreign Service Association (IFSA). The group wrote to then Director General of the Foreign Service Nancy Powell (now current US Ambassador to India) seeking her help in “formalizing a working relationship between IFSA and the State Department.” The State Department declined IFSA’s request on the basis that it was an attempt to establish a union.

More on this issue from the FSNs perspectives see:

Last Friday, IFSA issued a statement expressing disappointment “by the State Department’s continued rejection of any form of social dialogue with the largest component of its workforce.” It calls Mr. Polson’s argument against unionization “humiliating to the thousands of loyal and dedicated LE staff, let alone the 12,000+ men and women who work in security positions all over the world protecting US diplomats, US citizens and embassy facilities.”   The statement also notes that “Locally employed staff work in a legal vacuum, a system of Catch-22 rules and regulations, a compensation plan that lacks transparency, the absence of a system of accountability for management and a corporate culture that is not conducive to openness.” It expresses its commitment on continuing “to seek a dialogue aimed at breaking down the inequities in our workplace.”  Read in full here.

The current number of local employees working at U.S. Embassies worldwide as of March 2013 is 45,576.  A 2007 State/OIG report noted that since 1998, far more local embassy employes have been killed in the performance of their duties than have American Foreign Service employees.  The report points out the need for the Department “to codify in one place and strengthen its commitment to LE staff.”  That report recommended not only the development of “a bill of rights for locally employed staff” but also the establishment of a “a locally employed staff ombudsman position.” Neither of those recommendations, as far as we know has been implemented by the State Department.

In 2008, State/OIG did an inspection of the compensation issues of local embassy staff.  A report it issued on April 30, 2009 (Review of Locally Employed Staff Compensation Issues (ISP-I-09-44) included the following:

The U.S. is falling behind in providing a competitive compensation package for LE staff that is commensurate with their experience, technical skills,and responsibilities. Office of the Inspector General (OIG) survey data show that the U.S. Government is implementing average salary increases that are approximately 60 percent of what could be termed “prevailing practice.”

U.S. missions worldwide told the OIG team of their concerns about the current LE staff compensation review process, including discontent with off-the-shelf salary survey data, lack of transparency in the process, disparities between the salary and budget cycles, the use of outmoded and cumbersome communication technology, and the lack of interagency involvement and decision making.

Here’s the funny part, please get ready to laugh.

Image via Wikimedia Commons by Saibo

Image via Wikimedia Commons by Saibo

The State Department through it’s HR office on Overseas Employment (HR/OE/CM) spends an extensive amount of time and energy  in the the local employee compensation reviews/surveys to determine prevailing practice.

That’s a largely wasted exercise since the Department and other agencies “cannot” fund the suggested locally employed embassy staff salary increases.

State/OIG noted then that “the current system is inappropriate and inefficient, does not meet the requirements of the FSA, cannot be justified or explained, and cannot be regarded as professional treatment of an irreplaceable, valued group of employees.”  The OIG team also found situations in which “embassies were losing staff to other employers, an occurrence often attributed to the inability of the Embassy to achieve pay parity with the local labor market.  Some missions found that it was difficult to replace employees who left to take other jobs, particularly in countries with low unemployment rates.”

That State/OIG report cited 27 missions which presented “compelling arguments that their lower grade employees fall short of minimal living standards.” These arguments included accounts of LE staff doing the following:

  • removing children from school
  • cutting back to one meal a day
  • sending children to sell water or little cakes or toiletries on the streets
  • foregoing prescription medication because they cannot afford the co-pay
  • resigning to move back to their hometown because they cannot afford to live in the post city
  • sending their families back to their home country because they cannot afford to live in the host country
  • the cost of rice for an average family equating to half the monthly wages of over 60 percent of the staff
  • employees depending on salary advances and defaulting on loans in order to cover basic expenses
  • grades 1 to 3 earning less than $1.00 per day
  • employees paying at least $250 a month for a single room apartment with a salary of $250 to $400 a month
  • up to 50 percent of salary being spent on groceries, and 40 percent on
  • utilities salaries falling short of official poverty levels

State/OIG has that in its report on local compensation issues. The report presumably was read by somebody with the appropriate pay grade at the State Department.  Read. Checked.

That’s from a four-year old report.  But we recently heard that in one European post, the bureau with the highest attrition rate for local employees, one post has not had a salary increase in about 10 years.

Look — the State Department collected $3.1 billion in consular fees in FY2012.   That large pie shows allocation to Resource Management for American Salaries at $433,508,000 and to the Foreign Service Institute-Consular Training, Conferences, and Workshops at $7,054,000.  We could not find allocation of any sort for local employees.  Despite the budget constraints, it’s not like the State Department is not pulling in shovels of money from its consular operation, because it is.  If you can allocate $430 million to the salaries of American employees, it is hard to understand why can’t you find a slice of that pie for the salary increase of local employees.

Is it that funds for local employees is not  a priority?  Is it that the State Department takes them for granted, after all, they chose to work for the USG? And, of course, will continue working for the State Department whether they get salary increases/pay parity or not.  Some decades ago, the USG also decided that local employees need not even be members of the Civil Service for retirement purposes.  This group of people cannot vote or contribute to U.S. social security.  Is it that they’re foreign nationals and Congress has no real interest in them?  There are 45,576 of them and aren’t they all just happy to have jobs working for Uncle Sam who takes care of them when he can?

Foreign Service Nationals are apparently the “sturdy backbone” that holds together our diplomatic missions overseas. And  because we treat them so well and all, there is absolutely no reason why they should ever need a union, or a bill of rights, or an ombudsman.  And if they get killed in the line of duty, well then …. they’d be lucky if they find a USG official to fundraise for their next of kin on his own time.

If this group of employees were a book, the following would be printed in bold on the dust jacket:

“FSNs provide more than services and corporate memory. They are the backbone of the Department and play an essential role in achieving U.S. foreign policy objectives. Their loyalty and dedication are legendary. Many FSNs have given their lives protecting U.S. embassies and employees.”

State Magazine (Official Magazine of the U.S. Department of State)

“Of approximately 40,000 FSNs employed worldwide by all U.S. agencies, 32,000—80 percent—work for the Department. Their knowledge, special skills and rich network of local con- tacts are priceless. They share our vision, our challenges, our risks and our burdens.”

Ambassador W. Robert Pearson (Director General of the Foreign Service, 2003-2006)

“I would like to say a special thank you to our 53,000 Locally Employed Staff serving around the world. These dedicated men and women perform many critical tasks and generously share their experience and wisdom with their American colleagues.

Ambassador Nancy Powell (Director General of the Foreign Service, 2009-2012)

“Consul generals come and go, ambassadors come and go, Secretaries come and go, but our locally employed staff really provides the continuity. You provide the memory bank of everything that went before, and we could not do this work without you as our colleagues working side by side every single day.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton (Secretary of State, 2009-2013)

“Americans who serve overseas are blessed to never serve alone. We rely on the support and the friendship and the wise counsel of our locally employed staff, and we trust our cause to their courage. Local employees around the world commit themselves to building strong and lasting relationships between their home countries and the United States, and they often serve for decades with loyalty and with devotion. You teach a steady stream of American diplomats who serve among you for a few years all about the values and virtues and beauties of your country and of the spirit of your people. You are the sturdy backbone that holds together the kind of mission that we are engaged in, and we are enormously grateful to you for that.”

John F. Kerry, Secretary of State, March 1, 2013

 

Perhaps what  Mr. chief labor-management negotiator failed to explain is if 45,576 local embassy employees were to unionize, they could potentially immobilize embassy operations in over 280 locations. In which case, every mission would have to implement a policy of “all-purpose duty,” as US Embassy Moscow did in 1986 whereby all embassy employees were expected to pick up all of the tasks previously handled by the Foreign Service Nationals, in addition to their official responsibilities.  In Moscow, the Ambassador spouse was not spared as her household staff was also pulled out and she had to double as hostess and cook.  In this scenario, even the most tedious tasks, such as washing embassy cars, shoveling snow, cutting grass, cleaning bathrooms, answering phones, printing visas, clearing goods through customs, etc. etc….will become the responsibility of the American diplomatic officials, in addition to their own duties and responsibilities.

We live in an interconnected world, more so now than five years ago.  The linkages already exist.  A time will come in the not too distant future when Mr. Polson’s “staff associations” will become one, whether the State Department choses to recognize it or not.

🙉

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