Nate Johnson has Havelock on his mind, so much so that he brought the National Active and Retired Federal Employees association to the city for its 57th annual state convention this week.
He said that at last year’s state convention, discussion focused on where to have the next meeting. He said everyone looked around at each other, but he popped up and suggested Havelock.
"I had to do what a man had to do," he said Tuesday as the convention opened at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center. "It worked out real good. Every one here is very, very happy, especially with the Holiday Inn Express and the Hampton Inn. They have supported me in this effort 150 percent."
Johnson said the two hotels put aside 100 rooms for the attendees of the convention. About 160 members from the state’s 49 NARFE chapters are attending the event, and Johnson said they are helping the local economy.
"They’ve eaten at the Carolina Grill. They’ve been over to Crabby Patty’s, and we’re just passing the money around here in Havelock trying to help out the economy," he said. "That’s what I did it for. I’m going to be honest, ‘cause I love my Havelock."
There are 67 NARFE members here in Havelock at Chapter 2211.
"Our organization is all about protecting the earned benefits of all of our federal employees, both current and retired, because we have to make sure that everything that we’ve worked for for all of those dedicated years we put in aren’t taken away from us through no fault of our own," said Robert Allen, from Person County, who is the organization’s public relations director. "There’s strength in numbers. We have nationwide about 300,000 members of NARFE."
In North Carolina, NARFE has about 5,500 members. The state is divided into six areas. Havelock is part of Area Six, which includes New Bern and Greenville, and has about 1,200 members.
The state convention is designed to help the organization set the agenda for advocacy of specific issues on behalf of active and retired federal employees.
"We meet here once a year so we can talk to each other, do some socializing, but also for the betterment of the national active and retired federal employees," said Sam Crain, from Maggie Valley, president of the state federation of NARFE.
The group elected officers for the next two years, set bylaws, and looked after the needs of individual chapters during the three-day convention, which is scheduled to conclude today.
"We listen to our people to see what they want to do about their (Cost of Living Adjustment), their retirements and their health insurance. It’s all business," Johnson said.
Crain said that Congress is constantly going after the benefits of federal employees as a way to reduce the budget. He said that is putting a heavy burden on federal employees as compared to other areas of the budget.
"Our goal is to make sure that we do our share, but we’d like to see that widen into the other areas of the country who could be sharing that portion of the deficit," Crain said.
Locally, support extends to employees of Fleet Readiness Center East at Cherry Point, where sequestration is likely to lead to work furloughs, possibly beginning next month. Workers are facing the possibility of losing 20 percent of their paychecks for about 14 weeks during the furlough period.
"I’ve been recruiting FRC members to join us because right now as you know we’ve been having these furloughs, and while all this is going on, we’ve been fighting in Washington D.C. also and it’s been assisting FRC East, so I’ve been recruiting those members who are retiring here," Johnson said. "We need younger people to get involved and understand what’s going to happen if they don’t get involved.
"The federal employees at FRC are in a freeze right now and they are trying to change that to a different type setup to where they won’t have to give us a raise. We’re trying to get the government not to put us at fault for the problems that they’re having in the federal government. They’re making laws up there that they are going to try to do away with the way that they have our COLAs set up, and that’s our pay raises every year or so. That’s the reason we’re fighting this issue."