Contract bargaining opens with members sharing stories and action
More than 200 MAPE members showed up to show union support at MAPE’s first contract bargaining action and meeting with Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) Commissioner Myron Frans and his team today. Four members also spoke with negotiators to illustrate MAPE’s contract themes.
“We’re all here because workers through their union have a voice in workplace policies, wages and benefits. We believe that those who do the work have a right to have a voice on how the workplace is run. We do this because we believe that a good contract for state employees raises standards for all workers in Minnesota,” MAPE Executive Director Lina Jamoul said. Jamoul, pictured at left, also serves as the union’s lead negotiator.
MAPE’s five key contract themes include workforce development, equity and inclusion, work-life balance, healthy workplace and wages and healthcare.
Kasey Cropper works for the Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Cambridge where she is an academic advisor for the TRIO Upward Bound program. Cropper was able to participate in Minnesota State’s Professional Development Credits Program which pays for eight credits of her master’s degree in educational leadership with an emphasis on student affairs and higher education.
TRIO is a pre-college access program that helps low-income, first generation, and/or high-risk students to be successful in their post-secondary education goals.
“I love seeing how my studies are helping my TRIO students become more interested in their current education and thinking about their future educations and careers. I’ve experienced how much my students and I have learned because of the Professional Development Credits Program, and I know other state employees would greatly benefit from this program as well,” Cropper added.
Pictured at right: MAPE member speakers included (from left to right) Kasey Cropper, Elias Agbazahou, Angie Arnold and Bob Tarrant.
MAPE believes that the statute governing the use of temporary unclassified appointments is being misused and abused, with no oversight on the growing number of temporary unclassified appointments. Unlike regular MAPE positions, temporary unclassified employees don’t accrue seniority, don’t have layoff rights and have far fewer opportunities to develop a career in state service.
Elias Agbazahou, an information technology specialist with MN.IT at the Dept. of Human Services (DHS), is an unclassified employee whose two-year contract expires at the end of Dec.
“By the end of the year I will have developed expertise in at least 10 different applications that are used by DHS and MN.IT, and I will have a great understanding of their business units and how they are interconnected,” Agbazahou said.
“But I may be let go with an accumulated wealth of knowledge the state of Minnesota has spent time and money to provide me. Where is the value if I’m let go after two years and I cannot transfer that knowledge to new hires and get them ready to assist with the different projects? This is not sustainable for MN.IT or state government,” he added.
Angie Arnold, director of grants and sponsored projects at Normandale Community College, spoke with negotiators about the importance of paid family leave and the huge difference it would have made in her life. Arnold’s mother had dementia triggered by a traumatic brain injury. Arnold moved her mom into the same apartment building where she lived with her husband and son in Minneapolis. “My mother was happy and comfortable, we went to concerts and we shared family dinners together every night.”
Arnold had limited vacation time to take to spend with her mom and couldn’t take unpaid leave because she had a high school-aged son getting ready for college. Arnold’s mother eventually left Minnesota to be with a sister who could help with her care.
At left, MAPE leaders in the crowd show support with a banner.
“My mother spent the last year of her life far from her daughter, son-in-law and grandson because of my limited leave. If I would have had access to paid family leave, my mom could have stayed closer to us longer. I would have had more time to spend with her, create more memories and more time to support the special relationship she had with my child,” Arnold said.
Arnold’s mother died last November. “I feel a profound sense of regret that I wasn’t able to spend time with her. My most sincere wish for every MAPE member – and every Minnesotan – is to be able to take the time they need to care for ill loved ones. These are special times and ones we can never get back,” Arnold added.
Bob Tarrant, a recreational therapist at St. Peter Regional Treatment Center, spoke about the importance of paying state workers fairly for the work they do.
Tarrant runs a variety of psycho-educational groups focusing on wellness, social awareness skills, communications and community reintegration for a unit of 20-some men, “We are in this field to help people. We teach lifelong skills to help them be successful members, whether it’s in a group home or in the community.”
“It is very dangerous work. The men are mentally ill. They are murderers, rapists, people who’ve committed assaults – if they weren’t at our facility, many would be in prison,” he added.
Tarrant has worked for the state for 14 years and his salary has been at the top of his salary classification for five years. His wife had double knee-replacement surgery last year and had to get a second job to supplement their income while she wasn’t working. He worked 15-20 hours a week as a janitor for a local cleaning company and also did carpet cleaning at $11 an hour.
“Sometimes I think about getting out of state service. The same position in the federal government would top me out at $30,000 more than I’m at now. I also look at the V.A. Hospital pay scale and go, ‘holy smokes!’” Tarrant admitted.
“I am in the recreational therapy field to help people. I work with some very dangerous citizens. If I go home in one piece and see my family, and no one has gotten hurt at work, that’s a good day,” Tarrant said. ‘I work hard for the state of Minnesota. I haven’t received more than a cost-of-living raise in five years. State government can – and must – do better by employees like me.”
“With the state facing a labor shortage, and with a third of the state workforce approaching retirement age within the next five
years, it is imperative that the state offers a family wage and keeps our quality healthcare affordable,” Jamoul added.
At right, Frans listens to member stories alongside MMB Deputy Commissions Edwin Hudson.
“I want to thank the members for sharing their stories – your enthusiasm and the care you showed is really important,” Commissioner Frans told MAPE members. “I can assure you that we will take your proposals very seriously. We want to show Minnesotans that we can deliver services effectively and efficiently, and to do that we need to retain and recruit the most talented people that we can get. You represent a big part of that for the state of Minnesota.”
MAPE President Chet Jorgenson, pictured below, told negotiators that MAPE and other unions have worked to develop innovative policies and programs to help retain state employees and recruit new ones. Some of the programs included saving the state millions of dollars in healthcare costs with a single pharmacy manager and a diabetes program, paid parental leave and the Respectful Workplace Policy.
Jorgenson thanked Commissioner Frans for the support he has shown state employees in the past and reminded negotiators that Gov. Tim Walz is also supportive of government employees and the work they do, “As the governor often says, if you support labor and collective bargaining, you support Minnesota.”
View MAPE’s entire proposal package here: https://mape.org/mapes-opening-contract-proposals
MMB also presented contract proposals Thursday afternoon: https://mape.org/mmbs-opening-proposals
Share how one or more of our negotiation themes have impacted you so we can strengthen our proposals: https://mape.org/news/themes-and-stories