Hundreds of DHS Employees disappointed Commissioner did not meet with them about MAPE contract proposals

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Nearly 250 MAPE members gathered Monday for what they thought would be a meeting with Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Jodi Harpstead to discuss MAPE’s contract proposals and ask for her support. The commissioner was a no show and more than halfway through the meeting had a staff member contact MAPE to say she would not be attending the meeting. 

Retkwa & Eaton

“Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) had refused to have meaningful discussions of MAPE’s proposals with the union’s Negotiations Committee. MMB had also refused to discuss proposals with economic costs and have discussed but not accepted a handful of others. Just last week after refusing to negotiate with us, they asked for mediation,” Region 2 Negotiations Representative Elizabeth Eaton said.  

“I am disappointed Commissioner Harpstead did not take the opportunity to hear from her team about our work experience and why we are requesting these contract changes,” said Raina Kelly. She said she wanted to talk with Harpstead about telework plans.  

“The proposal would allow the state to recruit from a larger pool of highly skilled applicants, which may lead to a more diverse workforce. Expanding telework would also provide current workers more job stability,” she added. 

In addition to telework, DHS members spoke about the importance of competitive across-the-board wages, temporary unclassified workers, deferred compensation, updated definition of family and other issues.   

Mary Alice

Competitive across-the-board wages were at the top of Mary Alice Jouppi’s list. She first worked for the State nearly 20 years ago as an enterprise and network engineer for Social Service Information System. She waitressed in addition to her government job because she didn’t make enough money to support herself.  

She accepted a well-paying network engineer position in the private sector where she received annual bonuses between $50,000-$85,000. Once she was more financially secure, she returned to State service as a Legislative Business Analyst in 2016. “I love my job; I work hard and know my work helps the citizens of Minnesota and my coworkers. I have been at the top of my pay scale since I returned to the State and would love to see more steps added to our job classes. Our household budget is very lean and I hope I can retire at a decent age; but at this rate, I feel like I may have to work forever,” Jouppi said.   

“Several of my colleagues have left us for the private sector which makes our jobs much harder given their much-needed knowledge left with those employees. Our resources are stretched very thin,” she added. 

Jennifer Perry was also concerned about competitive cost of living wage adjustments. “I’m driving a 16-year-old car, paying for daycare, health care costs and own a modest home. I’m not taking vacations; just raising my child and working. There’s not much room in my budget so employee-focused contracts help,” Perry said. “I’ll probably be a 14 classification for the rest of my career, and I don’t plan to retire for 33 years. This means that those COLAs are especially important as are manageable deductibles and co-pays. My personal goal is to never need a publicly funded service or support.” 

Cathleen Cotter spoke in favor of increasing the State’s deferred compensation match to $500. “For years in my early career, I was a single parent and knew well the living paycheck to paycheck tango. However, even in the leanest years I was able to put $10 per pay period toward deferred comp to get the state match. By increasing the deferred match to $500, even newer state employees can afford the $20 or so per pay period required to earn the match,” Cotter said.  

MAPE represents hundreds of temporary unclassified employees, many of whom the union believes should be classified workers. “One of the hardest things I encounter as a steward is helping temporary unclassified (TU) employees when they face termination or separation from state service. This is because there are simply too few guardrails to protect TU workers or their benefits,” Dylan Adams said.  

Following the meeting, DHS members wrote letters to DHS Commissioner Harpstead and MMB Labor Relations Director Jennifer Claseman asking them to support MAPE’s contract proposals to build a workforce for the 21st Century and better workplace for their employees. 

Email Harpstead now

“This is just step one – stay tuned for more activities. Next time, bring a friend – we all have to do more or we will get the same. We will have more actions in June. To get the across-the-board wage increases we all deserve, we all must act,” Region 21 Negotiations Representative Christine Retkwa said.  

MAPE’s Negotiations Team will be holding a townhall on May 31 – be sure to attend to hear the latest on contract negotiations! More information on how to join will be available soon!