Retired federal employees group celebrates 50 years of advocacy and fellowship

The Tri-City chapter of the National Active & Retired Federal Employees Association launched its 50th year with a return to form and its first in-person event in more than a year.

The local chapter met Sept. 1 at the Red Lion Hotel Kennewick Columbia Center – its usual spot – in a return to business after holding its far-flung membership together in online gatherings.

Organizers were eager for Chapter 1192 to advance on its twin missions to offer fellowship to current and retired federal employees and to advocate for their benefits and health care in Washington, D.C., said Mary Alice Binder, public relations chairwoman.

“We’re not a union. We’re advocates for federal employees and retirees,” she explained.

Binder, who retired in 2005 as a spokeswoman for the Umatilla Weapons Depot in Oregon, said the chapter is trying to regroup after a year of shutdowns. Pre-Covid, it met 10 times a year in Kennewick, taking a few months off in the summer.

After, it met online, with mixed results. Members who couldn’t normally make it to physical events logged in. But members who aren’t online were left out.

“We are very much looking forward to in-person,” she said.

Typically, members gather for lunch and a program, often updates on the lobbying efforts of the chapter’s parent, which is based in Washington, D.C. The national association marks its centenary in 2021. Its agenda for the 117th Congress (2021-23) is sweeping. Key priorities include:

  • Opposing cuts to earned federal retirement and health benefits. NARFE will oppose proposals to reduce or eliminate cost-of-living adjustments and other measures it says breach the government’s commitment to its workers.
  • Supporting market rate increases for pay rates and opposition to compensation cuts.
  • Supporting an average wage increase of at least 2.7% for the 2022 calendar, providing parity with the expected military pay rates and in line with private sector wages.
  • Supporting reform – or repeal – of the Windfall Elimination Provision, which reduces some Social Security benefits. It also supports the Social Security Fairness Act, which would fully repeal the WEP and Government Pension Offset plans.

Other initiatives include reforming federal hiring, more accurate cost-of-living adjustments and protecting the health benefits earned by Postal Service retirees.

As the Tri-City chapter looks beyond the pandemic – fingers crossed – it is sketching out an agenda for its 200-plus members representing a wide array of federal activities.

The chapter meets at 11:30 a.m. the first Wednesday of the month at the Red Lion, 1101 N. Columbia Center Blvd., Kennewick.

Upcoming gatherings include a presentation from Active 4 Life in October, an update on Alzheimer’s research in November, a holiday program in December, a youth mentoring program in January and its annual legislative update from Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center in February.

The Tri-City chapter first met on March 3, 1971, at Roy’s Chuck Wagon in Richland. Not surprising, its 34 original members were chiefly Hanford retirees from the U.S. Department of Energy. Also not surprising, the group is far more diverse now, according to Pat Turner, chapter president.

Today, it has more than 200 members who worked across the vast federal government – Department of Defense, Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers and more.

“As the Tri-Cities has grown and become more diverse, so has our NARFE chapter,” Turner said. “We have members who are still working and others who have retired. Some are lifelong area residents and others have moved here for retirement.”

The National Active & Retired Federal Employees Association is open to current and retired employees and their spouses.

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