|The FEHB (Federal Employees Health Benefits) Open Season is coming to a close (December 9). Arizona NARFE members have attended the majority of the Health Fairs in Arizona during this Open Season, in an effort to recruit new Chapter members from attending active employees. Assisting in recruitment this year have been the Federation-sponsored $100 gift cards (to be awarded to those prospects completing a NARFE M-2 Prospect Card) and the six-months free trial memberships available to current employees. Of course, the other aspect of Open Season is personal. It is your opportunity to change your health insurance plan or to enroll in dental and/or vision coverage. Thanks to the efforts of NARFE, Federal retirees are able to participate in the annual Open Season and are eligible to join dental and vision plans.
Last Friday evening, Gina and I attended a "Happy Hour" with Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1-D). Of note, Congresswoman Kirkpatrick serves on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. Given the opportunity of a one-on-one conversation with Ann, I asked her several questions on NARFE issues and presented NARFE's views. Ann has been the recipient of a $2,000 NARFE-PAC donation earlier this year. Did the NARFE-PAC donation have a role in the invitation to the Happy Hour? Maybe. If so, our NARFE-PAC contributions have paid off. Whether you support or oppose her positions on other issues, she has been relatively supportive of NARFE and is certainly one of the most accessible Arizona Members of Congress. Note: NARFE Chapters in Ann's District include Flagstaff, Casa Grande, and part of Roadrunner 1874 (Tucson).
The Board authorized three $100 gift cards to be awarded to those prospects completing a NARFE Prospect Card (M-2). The Board also authorized the same limited reimbursement (parking and 25 cents per mile after exceeding 75 miles) for NARFE recruiters attending the Health Fairs.
After the successful “off-year” training meeting last year, the Board voted to hold a second “2014 Biennial Workshop ” meeting next spring (2014). A Committee of Etta Bryant, Jane Pall, and Linda Connelly (others are invited to join them) will be responsible for planning the agenda and determining the time and place of the meeting.
The six current candidates for National Office were announced, as follows: for National President - current National Vice President Paul Carew and National Secretary Elaine Hughes; for National Vice President - current Region VII Vice President Frank Impinna and Florida Federation President Kenneth Thomas; for National Secretary - current Region VIII (California) Vice President Helen Zajac; and for National Treasurer - current National Treasurer Richard Thissen. The election will take place at NARFE's National Convention in Orlando, Florida, August 24 - 28, 2014.
During mid-September, NARFE conducted a “Call Congress” week. Once again, Arizona NARFE members answered the call, ranking in the TOP 5 of state caller numbers. Arizona ranked fifth among all states in the number of calls placed through NARFE’s toll-free number for the Capitol switchboard. Only California, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania placed more calls than Arizona. Arizona NARFE members placed more calls to Congress than members in Maryland or Virginia, states with roughly five times as many NARFE members as Arizona.
Most Arizona NARFE Chapters have concluded their election process for this year. To those that have filled all of their elected positions, Congratulations! I know we all enjoy the Chapter holiday parties and installation of officers. Gina and I are planning to attend six this year, including two in the Tucson area. If your Chapter has unfilled positions please volunteer! Since the Federation Convention in Yuma in 2006 (my first), we have closed 10 Arizona NARFE Chapters. In every case, the closure resulted not from a lack of members, but rather from a lack of leaders/officers. NARFE needs your continued service. Speaking of elections, current National Vice President Paul Carew has withdrawn his name from nomination for National President, leaving only current National Secretary Elaine Hughes as an announced candidate for the position. The next issue (January) of the NARFE magazine will begin a series of articles about the next NARFE National Convention in Orlando, Florida, August 24 - 28, 2014.
Finally, I'd like to provide you with an update on the progress of the Future of NARFE (FON) Committee. As reported in the last Federation newsletter, discussions during the FON Committee's initial meeting, September 17 - 19 at the NARFE National Office, focused on issues relating to membership, structure, governance, and funding - all driven by NARFE's mission. The Committee left that meeting with a consensus that the current NARFE organization is unsustainable and that the long established NARFE mission is in grave danger. The group concurred on a vision of a streamlined organization focused on advocacy. Since that initial meeting, the FON Committee has met via GoToMeeting twice in October and twice in November, each session lasting 2 - 3 hours. The FON Committee will reconvene at the NARFE National Office during the week of January 20. FON Committee recommendations should be judged against the following criteria: Will they further our mission? Will they make NARFE more effective? Will they improve membership strength? Will they help realize the funding necessary to support membership and mission? Will they be for the long haul? Will they allow us to act quickly enough to save the organization?
Is our organization really at such risk? When I attended my first Federation Convention in Yuma in 2006, the Arizona Federation had 27 Chapters. Today we have 17. We've lost 37% of our Chapters in just 7½ years. At the time of that Federation Convention, the Arizona Federation had 6,014 voting Chapter members. Today we have 3,828. We've lost 36.3% of our voting Chapter members in just 7½ years. Finally, at the time of that Federation Convention, my home Chapter 1789, Sun City West, had 406 voting Chapter members. Today we have 272. In just 7½ years, my home Chapter has lost one-third of our voting Chapter members. Most other NARFE Federations and Chapters have similar experiences. Without DRASTIC change, NARFE will be completely gone in another 15 years. We must be prepared to honestly assess and consider new organizational structures, new methods of governance (i.e., voting), new forms of membership, and new funding sources. We may need to refocus on our "niche" - Federal civilian retirement benefits. And we may need to winnow our efforts to focus on achieving our mission through advocacy. No other organization has a similar mission.
As we celebrate the upcoming holiday season, may you and your family have a joyous, safe, and prosperous New Year.
UPDATED: December 6, 2013