|As I write this message for our Arizona Federation newsletter, the forecast for today is a high of 108 degrees. No wonder so many of our members head north to Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, and Fargo for the summer. And most of our Arizona chapters go dark during our blazing hot summers. But our NARFE family continues to work for our members at the Chapter, Federation, and National levels of our organization. NARFE works for you.
Deadlines are approaching for those attending our next NARFE National Convention in Orlando, Florida, August 24 - 28, 2014. Credentials forms, designating your Chapter Delegates and Alternates, and your Chapter Voting Representative, must be received at NARFE by June 28. Hotel reservations for attendees must be made by July 21. Individual convention registration must be completed (easily done online) by August 1. And proxy forms for Chapters that are not sending a delegate to the Convention must be received at NARFE by August 9. All of the information that you will need to complete the above is available on the NARFE website (www.narfe.org). Please be sure that your Chapter Credentials form or proxy form is submitted to NARFE on time (yellow copy to me), so that once again ALL Arizona NARFE members will be represented at this important National Convention. Let me know if your Chapter needs assistance in locating a proxy.
Have you registered for the Region IV Vice President Candidate Forum on Tuesday, June 3? Just log in to the NARFE website (www.narfe.org), click on the 33rd National Convention button, then click on the Candidate Forums button on the top. If you miss the forum, you can watch a recording at a later date on the NARFE website. And remember, we do have a candidate for Region IV Vice President from Arizona.
Sunnyslope Chapter 1686 will be hosting a National Convention Resolutions Seminar on Wednesday, July 23, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Crossroads Methodist Church in Phoenix. All Convention delegates and other interested NARFE members are encouraged to attend this seminar and discuss the many resolutions and by-law amendments proposed for consideration at our upcoming National Convention. There is no charge to attend the seminar. More information about this seminar is located elsewhere in this newsletter.
Also, make plans to attend our 2014 Arizona Federation Biennial Workshop, to be held September 26 - 27, 2014, in Phoenix. More information on the Workshop is contained in Vice President Bryant’s article, which follows.
Every “narfe” magazine (yes, the title has been “modernized” by using no CAPS) includes the NARFE Mission Statement on the page with the National President’s message. In brief, “to protect our earned benefits.” Great! But how does NARFE “protect our earned benefits?” Legislative (and administrative) advocacy. Do our legislators listen? Federal retirees have not had a loss of benefits in a couple of decades. And, we have had some successes (Sick Leave credit for FERS retirees, phased retirement, etc.). What makes some legislators listen? Is it our large campaign contributions through NARFE-PAC? Not really. While NARFE-PAC contributions may get us a seat at the table for certain issues, NARFE members are not known for their large bank accounts. Then what? It is our membership numbers and our members’ advocacy efforts.
Our National Legislative Department can plead our case, but their success is largely determined by the calls, letters, and emails sent by NARFE members to back them up. Have you contacted Senators McCain or Flake, or your local U.S. Representative lately? Did you write a Letter to the Editor last month reminding your neighbors of the importance and value of Federal employees (who become Federal retirees), especially during Public Service Recognition Week? Twenty-one (21) Arizona NARFE members (including some in the Arizona eDivision of eNARFE) did. Of all of the 54 NARFE Federations, Arizona NARFE members sent the 9th most Letters to the Editor this year. Good job! BUT, we can do better. How? Go to the Legislative Action Center on the NARFE website (www.narfe.org). From the home page, click on Legislative Department. Pick your favorite item under Issues and Legislation. Send your message. It’s easy. It’s free. It works. This is how we “protect our earned benefits.”
As I visited many Chapters this spring to explain and discuss the Future of NARFE Committee recommendations, one of the most common questions and concerns was about making Chapter membership optional, rather than mandatory (one of the Bylaws amendments to be voted on at this year’s National Convention). Past studies and surveys have indicated that a majority of NARFE members would prefer not to belong to a local Chapter, if given the choice. Even the highly successful AARP is no longer focused on Chapters (go to their online help/A-Z, Chapter is not listed - but Facebook and Twitter are; only an online Chapter locator is available). My good friend Lea Zajac, past President of the California Federation, has offered a list of reasons why: “(1) they do not wish to pay the chapter dues; (2) chapter meetings offer nothing of interest to them; (3) chapters have become a social activity; (4) chapter meetings are not structured with an agenda and legislation is not discussed; (5) it is too far to travel to a chapter meeting; (6) they are not welcome in a chapter, not asked to participate; (7) chapter meetings are too long; (8) they get all the information they feel they need in the NARFE magazine, the NARFE Hot Line, and the Chapter Newsletter; (9) Younger members do not associate well with the older members; (10) chapters are fixed on old, outdated ways of doing business; not interested in improving – “we have always done it this way”; (11) chapter leaders do not express enthusiasm or thoughtfulness for the interest of the members attending meetings; (12) younger members, particularly current employees, don’t have time for meetings and would rather obtain NARFE information by electronic means; and (13) they do not wish to be a chapter officer or committee chair.” Yet many Chapters, including most in Arizona, still thrive. Why? Because these Chapters offer something of value to Chapter members. It could be the monthly program, the legislative update, the exchange of information, or even the social contact with fellow Federal retirees and spouses. Just like national membership, the benefits must outweigh the costs.
In a practical sense, optional Chapter membership would be no different from our current structure, where any member may join eNARFE (which is really a "Chapter" in name only), and not belong to a traditional zip code-based Chapter or pay Chapter dues. As of the end of April, NARFE had nearly 40,000 (roughly 16% of membership) of non-local Chapter members (10,518 National Only members, 5,682 National Life members, and 22,631 eNARFE members). There is no reason to believe that dropping mandatory Chapter membership will lead to a mass exodus of Chapter members. Due to a “loophole” in our Bylaws, Life Members may drop their Chapter membership, by not paying Chapter dues, at any time. Yet, 18,473 Life Members continue to pay Chapter dues and maintain their Chapter membership (more than 76% of ALL Life Members).
Finally, by eliminating the Chapter membership requirement, ALL NARFE members (including our current National Only, National Life, and foreign Chapter 4044 members) will be eligible to vote. We all pay the same national dues to NARFE. Why should so many not have the right to vote for NARFE leadership nor vote on NARFE business?
Enjoy your summer! See you in Orlando!
UPDATED: June 18, 2014