First-ever Steward Summit a success

Publish Date

More than 200 stewards traveled from Hibbing to Rochester to attend MAPE’s first-ever Steward Summit.

“Representational work is as important as the organizing work our union does. MAPE’s power is at the local level, and because of the work that we do as stewards, we also create a visibility and recognition of the union by our members,” MAPE Vice President Thu Phan told the stewards.

Panel on ADA and FMLA at Steward Summit

Photo at right: Region 10 Chief Steward Alex Migambi, Local 801's Ken Rodgers and Region 21 Chief Steward Chris Cachuela discuss the Americans with Disabilities Act and Family Medical Leave Act.

The forum included discussions on conflict resolution and learning how to represent members with disabilities and those covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Members also participated in four workshops highlighting representation under the contract and the Respectful Workplace Policy as well as tips on strategy and filing a single grievance and a class action grievance.

"Generally, FMLA is job protection for when you need to be away from work, and the Americans with Disabilities Act is accommodations that allow you to work," Dept. of Transportation program administrator and Local 801 Steward Ken Rodgers said. 

Todd Kohl, a former counselor with the state’s Employee Assistance Program, spoke about navigating conflict and challenging relationships in the workplace. He reminded stewards they are part of a collective and never alone with 15,000 members and staff behind them.

Todd Kohl speaking at Steward Summit 2019

Photo at let: Todd Kohl speaks about navigating conflict and challenging relationships in the workplace.

“The most important thing you can do every day is be visible. Your members will learn to trust and rely on you. Your visibility helps solve different situations before they occur,” Kohl said. “Don’t be passive, always act. That’s what your role is. The best way to diffuse a difficult situation is to bring it back to the contract. Be the voice of reason, of calm, and get back to the issue.”

Kohl added, “Check in with your members. Check in with management. Create a comfort level. When it comes later to a discomfort level, you’ll be on stronger ground. Give people the opportunity to be heard.”

Local 1201 Steward Matt Spillum participates in workshop at Steward Summit 2019

Photo at right: Local 1201 Steward Matt Spillum participates in workshop on essential steward tools for representation.

Local 1201 Steward Matt Spillum, an information officer at Metro State, also advised fellow stewards to try to develop “soft” relationships with human resources and management, “We can make soft power hard if we make those relationships.”

Stewards in Region 14 often have to travel 90 minutes or more to attend steward meetings so Chief Steward Eva Peterson often includes time to prepare for grievances during the meetings. "We have a lot of activists in the room and new stewards, too, who have creative ideas. It is like a training itself and very powerful." 

Eva Peterson participates in workshop at Steward Summit 2019

Photo at left: Region 14 Chief Steward Eva Peterson discusses steward meetings in her region.

"By prepping our grievances at the meeting, the stewards were actively engaged, and it showed HR that this involves more than one person," Peterson added.