MAPE Members Stepping UpMAPE Members Stepping Up
Thank you to all of our amazing members who went above and beyond during the worst of the pandemic. The state works because we do!
Throughout the pandemic, many MAPE members did not have the option of working from the safety of their home or they would not be able to provide the services that Minnesotans depend on. Here are some of their stories who worked in dangerous situations or incurred additional costs to help Minnesota.
Frontline Worker and COVID-19 Stories
Ben Nagel, Minnesota State, Winona State University ITBen Nagel, Minnesota State, Winona State University IT
Here in Winona State's Information Technology department, my MAPE coworkers and I have been working overtime, innovating to support our students and faculty, and making creative use of the technology at our disposal to fight against the virus that has disrupted our lives. We’ve banded together to stay strong through the last many weeks keeping everything running at WSU and honoring our commitment to our seniors to see them through graduation. Here in our department we have the backs of our students and each other.
Bishop Marty Shanahan, Center for Changing Lives, Dept. of CorrectionsBishop Marty Shanahan, Center for Changing Lives, Dept. of Corrections
At the end of February the world was hit with a new virus—the Novell corona virus-Covid19-a virus that has and will continue to reshape and redefine the very fabric of our societies and our world.
In the midst of that catastrophe, the unhealed and uncleansed wounds of Racism were ripped open once again in the murder of Mr. George Floyd, right here in our very own city of Minneapolis.
The combination of those Pandemics….Racism and Covid19…fear, anger, frustration, mystery, destruction, vandalism and opportunistic crimes have bled out of our mutual historical bodies.
Sometimes, and maybe now, one of the fastest routes to healing can come from our bleeding, because we cannot ignore them any longer, thus we are forced to address the realities of our trauma. Today, throughout the United States, faith leaders of all faiths, Christian, Hindu, Native, Muslim, Jewish and Humanists—all have agreed to stand together in a day of collective mourning and hope.
Mourning for the over 100,000 of our brothers and sisters who have had to die alone because of the Covid19 virus, and their loved ones who have had to stand outside of the intimate circle of death and watch, helpless. Mourning, also the fact that Racism, has once again ripped open the unhealed wounds and has taken countless lives and has often killed the human spirit of many others. All of it reminds us that we are truly one, all one!
One human family, one world, one people. And this day is not only a day of mourning, it is a day of Hope. A day that I am convinced can be the birthing of the healing we all so desperately need.
Each of us can make a difference; each of us can be instruments of peace and healing; each of us can reach out to our brothers and sisters across the wounds of divisions, real or imagined, and together we can restore our common human connections which have been torn apart. Together we can begin to weave a new tapestry of hope.
I invite each of you, my colleagues, and all those with whom you work, to join together, not only this day, but in all the days forward to commit ourselves to eradicate injustice, eliminating racism, fostering healing and restoring hope.
As I knelt down on the street at the corner of 38th and Chicago and laid some simple flowers and offered a prayer for Mr. Floyd and the community of the human family, a young African American boy walked up to me holding a sign that said: When did I move from being “cute” to being “scary”?
Our eyes locked in unity, and against the pandemics of racism and Covid19 we embraced and I said to him: “I hope at least in my eyes you will never be scary.”
And I was reminded of the ancient Celtic Hymn…Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
We, my friends, can change the narrative of our world…if we chose to. I pray and I hope we do.
Carol Berg, Dept. of Transportation, Local 801Carol Berg, Dept. of Transportation, Local 801
As the COVID-19 crisis has hit Minnesota, I stepped up to serve Minnesotans and keep our state running. I work in the Department of Transportation’s Office of Administration, assisting employees and management to improve their business processes. My services, and those of everyone in the office’s Business Integration Section, are in high demand, and service requests have increased during COVID-19 in a telework environment. Our customers increasingly rely on our electronic document management system, automated workflows for document processing, and technical support. I am on the team of Business Analysts who first help customers model current processes, identify opportunities and model process improvements. Other teams in our section build automated solutions to deliver those process improvements and provide critical and non-critical support services. Recent increases in work requests speak volumes about the value our section provides to MnDOT and its customers state-wide. We help them realize efficiency gains and cost savings too.
Carrie Klumb, Dept. of Health, Local 902Carrie Klumb, Dept. of Health, Local 902
I am a senior epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). In addition to my normal roles as rabies surveillance coordinator and working to keep farmers in our state healthy, I’m now part of the team that helps monitor healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19. My team assess their exposure risk level, actively monitors these healthcare workers for 14 days, and provides advice to facilities.
Our role in this response gives us the unique opportunity to be the voice for healthcare workers on the frontlines. Often, we are the only people talking to these healthcare workers and checking in on them on a regular basis. We hear their concerns about lack of personal protection equipment and other safety issues and are then able to feed those concerns up the chain.
It’s all hands-on deck at the Health Department right now. Colleagues from across the agency are stepping up and stepping into roles they’ve never held before. They are helping interview cases and healthcare workers exposed to cases, and answering calls on the public and provider hotlines. It’s been amazing to see colleagues working outside their regular duties and quickly adapting to their new roles. Because of the amount of contact tracing we’ve been able to do, we’ve gained insight into how this disease has spread within our communities.
David Seipel, Local 901David Seipel, Local 901
What we do affects everyone because everyone eats
I love what I do in food safety and public health at the Dept. of Agriculture – what we do in food inspection affects everyone because everyone eats.
We work right alongside the employees at meat processing plants and we see and hear what they see and hear. You’re providing them with the latest COVID-19 precautions; a lot of times it’s encouragement and support. We’re all in it together and all want a safe food product. Knowing that you’re going to be there for them is very important. It creates a relationship that has a trust factor. They know that they can talk to you more and you’re going to be there.
There is nothing more important in food safety than working together. Yes, we’re the regulators, and if things aren’t right we’re going to take care of it. But they know you’re working with them and it brings a better relationship, and they know you’re going to be there. It makes you stronger and better as a group. They’re making food for someone’s mother or father or little one.
You always carry, especially at the very start, a worry that you will be affected by COVID-19. You’re worried you’ll take it home to your family. You just know that your job is to provide a safe food supply for the people of Minnesota. All of us in food inspection are really a team and I’m proud to be part of the group.
Esther Hollander Felsen, DEED - CareerForceEsther Hollander Felsen, DEED - CareerForce
I feel fortunate to be a steady force for so many reaching out to us overwhelmed, fearful and plainly in shock about COVID-19 and being unemployed. I have the opportunity to listen, support, offer suggestions and clarity so that our customers and clients feel safe talking to us is such an important gift for them and for those of us serving their needs. Many are frozen in fear about paying their mortgage or rent, having food and wondering when this will be over. We make a difference by offering baby steps or programs to relieve stress and manage issues. Whether creating targeted resumes or reviewing resumes, providing networking ideas and job postings, that’s just what we do every day. When people can’t get through to other resources, they come to us. People are so appreciative and relieved when they can talk to someone to help them see through the chaos. I’m proud to be someone they can talk to.
Jeff Plaman, Minnesota Dept. of EducationJeff Plaman, Minnesota Dept. of Education
Immediately after Governor Walz announced that school buildings would close, I reached out to the Minnesota ed-tech and online learning community to provide support to educators who were planning for to provide distance learning. To date, there have been 18 web conferences held with more on the way. Sourcewell Technology have partnered with us to organize and facilitate the ongoing teacher-to-teacher conversations. These conversations have connected experienced online educators with teachers who are new to distance learning and I believe they have provided a sense of community, hearing that it can be done effectively, and some tips for getting started.
Jenna Trisko, Bemidji State UniversityJenna Trisko, Bemidji State University
I am the Grant Specialist at Bemidji State and I often work with faculty, staff and community stakeholders to develop programs that will benefit students and the northwest regional area. My position has been instrumental in generating funding for the universities’ many programs and services. Faculty and staff are also engaged in research projects that require external funding to implement. As many faculty have limited time and expertise to develop a strong and compelling grant proposal, I am able to step in and remove the writing burden from faculty to ensure we are submitting compelling proposals to funders.
We recently secured grants to fund climate action and resiliency planning and provide scholarships for math educators in high-need schools. I’m currently working on applications for students in nursing and teaching and seeking funding to build on to an endowment to support Native American students in our Ojibwe Language program. It has been an amazing experience working with Bemidji State and I feel very fortunate for this opportunity to help BSU deliver high-quality educational services.
Ken Eichman, CARE St. Peter. Dept. of Human ServicesKen Eichman, CARE St. Peter. Dept. of Human Services
I retired a year ago after 30 years in the chemical dependency counseling field, 26 of them with the State of Minnesota. My wife and I moved from St. Peter to the Northwoods in Gilbert after retiring and spent the summer as campground hosts. I was planning to let my chemical dependency license expire next month because I never thought I’d do that work again. Then I got a call from Dept. of Human Services HR asking if I might be interested in coming back to work because they needed the help. I started back at the CARE facility in St. Peter two weeks ago and I agreed to help through June 20. My wife’s health conditions make her vulnerable to COVID-19, so when I go back to Gilbert to visit her, I plan to stay in our camper to make sure she’s safe and we’re social distancing. It’s hard being away from my wife, but I knew I still had something to offer and could be of some assistance. I believe everything that’s meant to be will happen and i think some pretty great things will come from this too.
Kirsten Peterson, DEED Meet and Confer Chair, Region 18 Chief StewardKirsten Peterson, DEED Meet and Confer Chair, Region 18 Chief Steward
Last year we formed four subcommittees to address issues at DEED and developed over 40 new leaders in the process. Today those efforts are paying off because we’ve used our relationships with many of those leaders to gather information and insight about COVID-19 impacts across the state.
The DEED Meet and Confer has been meeting weekly to debrief, share stories we’re hearing from the field and enact our outreach, organizing and advocacy goals. We’ve succeeded in convincing DEED to close all careerforce locations to the public. We’ve advocated for dozens of members to be able to get COVID leave. I’ve established relationships with leaders and lines of communication to nearly every CareerForce location in the state (51 in total), so when Management makes decisions we hear about them within hours, not days. It has allowed us to act much more quickly on member concerns and escalate up the chain. We’ve built a constructive, if not positive, relationship with DEED HR so we can feel confident our concerns are being taken seriously.
LeiLani Hauge, Dept. of Health, Direct Care and Treatment, Local 1602LeiLani Hauge, Dept. of Health, Direct Care and Treatment, Local 1602
I work at a Community Behavioral Health Hospital in Fergus Falls serving folks who have been civilly committed due to deteriorating mental health or chemical dependency issues. I help patients learn healthy coping skills to better manage the symptoms they are facing, so they have the tools to return to their communities in a safe and sober manner.
I have seen many folks who are struggling in their symptoms, including visual, auditory hallucinations, verbal and physical outbursts, and not being able to manage their emotional needs in a healthy manner; Patients often resort to self-harm like cutting or scratching themselves until they bleed. This is a physical example of the pain, trauma and hopelessness these individuals are experiencing. Often, they come to our hospital with medical needs, such as diabetes, seizure disorders, and other physical ailments, which are as uncontrolled as their mental health needs. I can only imagine what a frightening time it is for someone to cope with so many barriers to live a healthy, goal-driven life.
Our local hospital has a small psychiatric unit, of about 12 beds. They tend to admit those with depression, anxiety and other types of non-aggressive disorders. The nearest major psychiatric hospital is an hour away in Fargo, ND. In greater Minnesota, options are limited for a locked setting. Most local hospitals will hold psychiatric folks in the ER until a bed will open at our facility as they do not have the resources to care for patients deep in their psychosis. We accept the people that private hospitals do not want or do not have the ability to ensure the safety of both the patient and staff. We are extensively trained to work with extremely aggressive, assaultive, and agitated patients.
Our facility not only fulfills our patients’ physical needs such as providing medical stabilization of their bodily ailments, but we also provide tools to support their mental health needs, such as medication management, therapy support and learning the skills to break the cycle of re-hospitalization. We have a team of skilled professionals that include human services technicians, social workers, nursing staff, providers to therapists, occupational/recreational therapists, behavioral assistants. We all work with one goal in mind – to help the most vulnerable return to a successful life in their community.
We consistently provide person-centered treatment for every individual who walks through our door, regardless of where they came from or what their story is. I serve your neighbors with mental illness from across the state, from St. Louis County to Blue Earth County; from Clay County to Ramsey County. It is crucial that you and the public understand and value the contributions the Community Behavioral Health Hospitals make to ensure a better and safer Minnesota and prioritize adequate DCT funding so we can continue to serve the state’s most vulnerable with the dignity and care they deserve.
~ LeiLani Hauge, Dept. of Health, Direct Care and Treatment, Local 1602
Lois Tucke, Deaf and Hard of Hearing services at DOC, Region 13 Director, MAPE stewardLois Tucke, Deaf and Hard of Hearing services at DOC, Region 13 Director, MAPE steward
At a time when the entire state is encouraged to “stay at home,” many of us at the Dept. of Corrections are serving Minnesotans on the front lines – both inside our correctional facilities and in our communities. MAPE professionals within our facilities continue to provide critical services that offenders rely on while, including much needed mental health services. Our supervised release agents play an essential role in our offender’s reintegration into society.
Facility Wardens have developed and implemented “stay with unit” plans, which is a prison’s version of “stay at home,” and our agency has modified programming schedules to encourage social distancing as much as possible.
This is an unprecedented time in our world, so it is vital that the agency think creatively and work with the employees to develop new approaches to staffing, schedules and programming plans in our facilities that keep everyone healthy and safe.
Lonie Goldsberry, MMB, Local 701Lonie Goldsberry, MMB, Local 701
We stewards are hearing many questions about the COVID-19 Leave Policy and telecommuting. I’m surprised by some of the pushback from supervisors and HR departments about both issues during these unprecedented times.
I recently represented a woman who has severe health problems and could become seriously ill if exposed to the coronavirus. Several people in her worksite were already in quarantine. Management kept denying her request for a VPN. I got involved and finally determined that I had to just draw the line and get her out of there. I sent an email to the ADA coordinator and said either they needed to give her a VPN immediately so she could telework or she would leave and be paid under COVID-19 Leave. She was out of there within an hour and received VPN the very next day.
Lori Soderholm, MCF-FaribaultLori Soderholm, MCF-Faribault
I’m really proud of our team of case managers at Minnesota Correctional Facilities – Faribault. We are essential employees who, due to where our assigned offices are, do not have the opportunity for social distancing. Each wing of our building houses 104 offenders. Our team has volunteered to step into roles we do not traditionally fulfil – like feeding inmates, screening incoming offenders, participating in the command post, court by video conference and training for chemical irritant training to provide additional security coverage for our facility. When an early release policy became effective April 14, central office expected MCF-Faribault to release offenders early, with two days’ notice and limited guidance regarding the paperwork. The case management team have banded together during this time of social distancing and put public safety first. We support one another. We all have families and lives, and yet everyone is stepping up and doing their best.
Lorraine Dame, MNIT, Local 1102Lorraine Dame, MNIT, Local 1102
We want veterans to know we appreciate their service. Our MNIT team partnered with the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs (MDVA) to deliver website capabilities that enable Minnesota Veterans to apply for state COVID-19 assistance programs online and not have to travel for this, or meet in person to apply, during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 Disaster Relief Grant offered by the MDVA is to help lessen the negative effects and economic impact COVID-19 has had on Minnesota veterans and their families by providing a one-time $1,000 grant. The COVID-19 Special Needs Grant provides one-time financial assistance to a veteran and/or surviving spouse who needs assistance due to a COVID-19-related event, and awards would go directly to a vendor or creditor. [More information on both types of grants is available at www.mn.gov/mdva/blog/?id=1066-425565]
It makes me feel very proud of my job. I like the notion that the state appreciates the contributions of veterans and recognizes these contributions, and I can be part of that. The state programs provide value and are online and available to the public at https://gibill.mn.gov.
I especially enjoyed working on this website project because we got to use up-to-date technology to build it. We have a great team of talented and skilled people, and I really liked being part of the team and part of the charge.
MNIT ServicesMNIT Services
The ability for State of Minnesota employees to telework increased exponentially in response to COVID-19 and resulted in 60 percent of the state workforce now working remotely. This crisis has not only highlighted the need to be prepared for large-scale workforce shifts, but it has been a catalyst for delivering swift results. MNIT quickly identified the number of people able to telework and their needs to access state systems while managing new supply chain constraints.
Our COVID-19 response is one of real-time collaboration to set up state employees to telework in a day’s notice. We quickly pulled together teams from across the agency to ensure that state employees had access to hardware, software, collaboration tools, video and phone conferencing services and customer service. MNIT leadership recognized the ability and desire of our employees to contribute to the COVID-19 response, and drew on their expertise; quickly deploying more than 35,000 state employees into remote workplaces.
Maureen Dunaway, DEED Local 501Maureen Dunaway, DEED Local 501
All of us at DEED in the unemployment insurance department are working hard to serve Minnesotans. We are on the phone the entire time during business hours leaving us to work overtime to do determine eligibility. We are thankful to those who have come back from retirement and those who were redeployed and are getting a crash course. However, we are still short-staffed for the volume of calls we are receiving. We have processed over 300,000 applications in three weeks, and that is more applications than we did in all of 2019. When you let that sink in, I think we are doing a really good job. Wait times are, as expected, longer than usual, leaving some callers frustrated. But many callers are thankful and understanding. If you know of anyone who is going to apply, please encourage patience. I am thankful that I am now able to telework; it has been a slow transition. It is going well for those who are teleworking so I'm hoping for the safety of my colleagues that more can get approved to telework soon. These are certainly unprecedented times, I think our department and all of my fellow MAPE members all deserve kudos. Keep up the good work everyone!
Maureen Leeds, MN Dept. of Health, Local 902Maureen Leeds, MN Dept. of Health, Local 902
I'm an interview room lead on the MN Dept. Of Health (MDH) team contacting healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19 cases, assessing their exposure risk level, and providing them with recommendations and information about their employment rights.
We have colleagues from across the agency stepping up and helping us talk with people who may have been affected. Restaurant inspectors and other public health sanitarians have really gotten good at coaxing stories out of people about what happened in the days leading up to the outbreak. It’s been amazing to see people pivot from their normal duties and rise to the occasion with this work.
We also provide legal protections to people staying out of work due to MDH recommendations. The agency recommends 14 days from your last exposure to a person who has tested positive. Most healthcare workers want to go back to work right away. Workers cannot be threatened or retaliated against for staying home during quarantine if they had a high-risk exposure.
Although we try to be sensitive, it is also hard to call a healthcare worker who is dealing with someone who is very ill or has died. It’s also been difficult to stop thinking about ways to improve the process for the team.
Melynda Ankney, DEED, Local 1703Melynda Ankney, DEED, Local 1703
I recently told my boss that I wanted to help as much as I could during the pandemic, and the next thing I knew I was traveling 43 miles from my Cambridge office to the Unemployment Insurance call center in St. Paul. The State received 149,000 UI applications last week – that’s up from 2,500 a year ago. The amount of calls we’re getting at the center is crazy. I’ve spoken with hundreds of people; if they don’t have a computer, we’re their backup and help them answer questions. The callers are extremely polite and understanding. They tell me, “We appreciate you so much. Thank you.” I’m very proud of the work we’re doing here.
Molly Nelson, Dep. of Natural Resources, Parks and Trails, Local 1801Molly Nelson, Dep. of Natural Resources, Parks and Trails, Local 1801
MN state parks have remained open to provide a much-needed source of recreation and relaxation during the Covid-19 pandemic. While most businesses have been closed the past weeks, state parks and trails have been experiencing record-high levels of visitors. Impacts on the trails and nearby woods were occurring due to a large number of visitors, especially at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. This park is known for its spring wildflowers, especially the Dwarf Trout Lily, a federally endangered species that occurs in only 3 counties in the state and nowhere else in the world. Staff had to act quickly to fence off restricted areas to protect the plants and install rope barriers to keep visitors on the trail. Additional interpretive staff were brought in to remind visitors to recreate in a responsible way. All of this was done while park staff was trying to control traffic, overflowing parking lots, and limited bathroom resources. MAPE staff were part of the solution of getting this work done while still being safe and social distancing.
Monica Weber, DNR, Local 101Monica Weber, DNR, Local 101
I’m on a team at the Department of Natural Resources that helps to manage two state grant programs: The Legacy Outdoor Heritage Fund and the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Grants are available to local governments and nonprofits for conservation and environmental improvements in our state through these reimbursement programs. My job is to process reimbursement requests for grantees, while always keeping an eye out to protect taxpayer money. My team provides a lot of assistance for those Minnesotans who receive these grants to help them meet their project goals. I work with 40 grantees. When they apply for reimbursement, I check every single receipt, contract and invoice to make sure they add up and are appropriate expenses. Then, another person on my team double-checks it. We have processed over $4 million through the system since March 16 – the date our team started teleworking. The process is going just as quickly as if we were in the office.
Each year, I touch base with every grantee to monitor how funds are being spent. We’re now in the middle of our annual monitoring period and are meeting via conference calls. We want to make this process as easy as possible for our grantees to ensure fiscal responsibility and transparency. I provide a lot of customer service in terms of answering questions and providing guidance and direction. I’ve gotten to build personal relationships with my grantees through this process and these relationships have only grown stronger during these trying times.
Normandale Community CollegeNormandale Community College
As Normandale Community College moved to remote learning MAPE and other Normandale employees fully committed to keeping the on-campus food shelf, the Campus Cupboard, still open for students. When all services were open on campus the food shelf had 200 student visits per week and had served over 1,100 unique students so for this academic year. Over a third of Normandale students were food insecure prior to the COVID crisis (source: 2018 #RealCollege Survey by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University). We knew that COVID would only increase this need. We moved the food shelf into a new location so it would be more accessible for students and allow us to follow social distancing. The food shelf is still open for students and is staffed by MAPE and AFSCME employees. We’ve had about 15 students come weekly so far. We adapted our model so students could get much more food per visit, to allow them to stock up on food as needed and limit their visits to campus.
Sarah Hagen, DOC - Lino LakesSarah Hagen, DOC - Lino Lakes
This story started with one mask for myself. It began with a vision to assist in fighting to curb the spread of COVID19. This encouraged me to begin making masks for my family and coworkers, who work with me at the Lino Lakes Correctional Facility. My overall drive to keep making the masks came from my love for creativity and the care and concern that I have for each and every person I work with. I made them with the help of Robin Windsperger, who spent countless hours cutting the material. We did our best to get as many people as we could through the facility and distributed to both MAPE members, AFSME members, supervisors and upper management. Aside from the basic materials each one of these masks was made with the intention for both health and healing of each person who wears it. As we move forward during these trying times I am grateful and blessed to give back to others.
Sophia Walsh, Dept of Health. Local 2001Sophia Walsh, Dept of Health. Local 2001
At the Department of Health (MDH), I help people who work in restaurants and hotels understand the changing rules and how to keep their businesses open while continuing to serve the public safely during the pandemic. There is fear among owners but the general feeling I’ve been getting from the industry is they just want to do it right.
There has been renewed interest in our newsletters because the information changes so quickly. The information coming from scientists and other experts can be difficult for the general public to read, so we use that information to create our own MDH fact sheets using plain language, which restaurants and hotels have appreciated.
It is striking how people are taking in information and supporting what Gov. Walz is doing. We are able to deal with this situation so well because Minnesota has a robust public health system and we have been preparing to be able to respond quickly to a major event. MDH has a good relationship with the governor who listens to what we say. If we didn’t have these built up before COVID-19, Minnesota wouldn’t be as well positioned to deal with this pandemic as we are now.
Stephanie Meyer, Dept. of Health, Region 9 DirectorStephanie Meyer, Dept. of Health, Region 9 Director
I’m proud to be part of the incredible team at MDH where everyone is involved. I’m a senior epidemiologist and work on the case investigation team where we contact confirmed COVID-19 patients, talk with them about their exposures, find out who they’ve been in close contact with and handle isolation and quarantine.
We also follow up with healthcare workers to ensure we have a healthy workforce in our hospitals, clinics, long-term care settings, group homes and many others.
We are trying to draw a circle around each case, find the contacts, isolate, quarantine where needed, and move to the next case. If we can contain illness in these spaces it makes a difference to the bigger burden on our healthcare system.
I’m grateful for the distance learning and emergency care my kids are able to receive. I have four kids and I wonder what happens if I get COVID-19? What if one of my kids get it? It keeps me up at night.
This is also why we’re trying to work with our agency to operationalize remote work. As careful as we are, we know it’s likely that someone here will get it. And then what happens? We’re working toward solutions to keep ourselves safe and keep our operations running smoothly.