NARFE Embroiled In Political Controversy

NARFE is facing a backlash from members for suggesting that its current National President be allowed to seek a third term.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) is facing a backlash from members for suggesting that current NARFE National President Richard Thissen be allowed to seek a third term.

The organization, which claims to focus on “protecting and enhancing the earned pay, retirement and health care benefits of federal employees, retirees and their survivors,” currently limits the national president to two consecutive two-year terms.

According to an open letter to members, NARFE will be seeking member approval for a “one-time” term-limit exception to allow President Thissen to run for an unprecedented third term of office.

The proposed amendment to the bylaws would read:

The national officers shall assume office on November 1, following their election by a majority of the ballots cast. These officers shall serve two-year terms, ending when their successors are elected and assume office. The president shall not serve more than two (2) consecutive terms in that office. The current sitting president is allowed to run, and if elected, serve a third consecutive term (November 2018 through October 2020). For subsequent elections, term limits for NARFE president revert to two (2) consecutive terms.

In August 2016, delegates to the NARFE national convention defeated an amendment that would have allowed the NARFE president to serve more than two consecutive terms, but the National Executive Board (NEB) at a called meeting on June 7, 2017, approved the use of a special referendum to allow the amendment, entitled One-Time Term Limit Exception, to go forward for a vote by the full NARFE membership.

Sources say the “emergency referendum” must be held soon because candidacy for national officer elections must be declared by December 31, 2017, in order for candidate information to be entered on 2018 ballots in a timely manner.

Reasons for the exception include:

  • Would allow current President to leverage important relationships built on Capitol Hill over the past six years as NARFE navigates unprecedented threats to the earned pay and benefits of the Federal community.
  • Third term for the current National President would facilitate the transition of the new NARFE Executive Director who recently came onboard.
  • The current President, Mr. Thissen, has been a registered lobbyist for six years and is known on Capitol Hill as the face of NARFE. He has been successful in making inroads with members of Congress who want to protect the Federal family from the current threats via proposed legislation.
  • Current President has experience serving at various levels on Chapter and Federation Executive Boards and at the National level as a Regional Vice President, National Treasurer, and National President.

The referendum comes as Congress considers changes to Federal retiree benefits including a proposed a reduction in cost of living adjustments for current retirees and increasing employees’ contributions to FERS.

NARFE has recently made other changes that have been seen as diminishing the role of its state chapters, such as its “One Member, One Vote” decision, and some chapters see this as a further consolidation of power in the national organization to the detriment of state chapters.

Ballots will be e-mailed to members with e-mail addresses and will be included in the August 2017 issue of NARFE Magazine with instructions. The votes will be tabulated by a third party.

About the Author

Michael Wald is a public affairs consultant and writer based in the Atlanta area. He specializes in topics related to government and labor issues. Prior to his retirement from the U.S. Department of Labor, he served as the agency’s Southeast Regional Director of Public Affairs and Southeast Regional Economist.