Hundreds hear of temporary unclassified misuse, MMB denies all related proposals

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More than 300 MAPE members attended open bargaining Thursday, April 22, for a lunchtime action about the misuse of the Temporary Unclassified (TU) designation, hosted by MAPE’s Negotiations Team. Though Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) negotiators attended and heard three stories about TU, its disproportionate effect on BIPOC employees and the hardships it creates, MMB denied all MAPE proposals aimed at improving the way TU is used by state agencies.

“Unfortunately, MMB is siding with management flexibility over solving the problem of the inequities our data shows,” MAPE President Megan Dayton said. “It was incredibly disheartening to hear management deny the disproportional impact of temporary unclassified abuses on our BIPOC members.” 

MAPE presented a set of proposals aimed at improving the State’s use of the TU designation and creating parity between unclassified and classified employees, but MMB turned them down with little explanation and provided no meaningful solution, indicating they would not agree with increasing the rights of temporary unclassified employees. 

Three of those employees affected by the overuse of TU designation spoke during the action. Though newly classified, Miguel Lindgren spoke about his time as a TU employee with MNIT at the Department of Human Services (DHS).

Miguel Lindgren

For three years I worked day in and day out with some anxiety because I am the sole income earner in my household,” Lindgren said. “I always had my ear to the ground for other job opportunities because I knew I could be let go without reason or much notice. I hung in there because I believe in the work I do, and the state provides great opportunities to do the system modernization work I’m passionate about.”

Lindgren also laid out new data from MAPE’s membership-wide survey that revealed while 13% of MAPE membership as a whole identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), that percentage nearly doubles to 23.5% of Temporary Unclassified employees identifying as BIPOC. 

“What that says to us is that some of the most diverse positions are also the most insecure with the fewest rights. That is a problem,” Lindgren told MMB negotiators. “We’ve heard from this administration that equity is a priority. In the case of temporary unclassified, the current level of management discretion is clearly incompatible with equity.”

Dibya Areeckal

Divya Areeckal, a TU employee also serving MNIT at DHS, shared her

experience with inequities at the State when she was hired at $4,000 a year less than her friend who had far fewer qualifications than she.

“My friend is a white male. I am not. This isn't the first time I’ve seen firsthand how tough it is to get equal standing, or even near equal standing as a woman of color,” Areeckal said. “Because of my previous experiences, I knew there wasn’t much hope in fighting this fight, so I took the job and started my temporary unclassified tenure at the State feeling I was viewed as lesser than.”

Areeckal also gave examples of why the TU appeal process isn’t working. Not a single appeal has been granted by MMB, a testament to their unwillingness to loosen the grip of TU control. Meanwhile, hardworking employees like Lindgren and Areeckal are forced to consider leaving their state jobs for more stability.

“My work for the State is more meaningful to me than other jobs that I’ve done in the past. But my biggest worry is finding out that my position is ending, and that I’d be out of work,” Areeckal said. “Being classified would ease my concerns and my colleagues’, too.”

One of Areeckal’s colleagues also spoke at the TU event on Thursday. She and Saroj Aryal are two of the 24 temporary unclassified employees on their 25-employee team. Aryal highlighted the cost of employee turnover and expense of losing knowledge, experience and passion for the work TU employees leave behind.

Saroj Aryal

“Most of us joined the team in early 2020, meaning there will be a steep cliff of employee loss at the two-to-three-year mark when our appointments end all at once...while the Medicaid system we work on isn’t going anywhere,” Aryal said. “It’s best for agencies and employees to maintain consistent work, and beneficial for knowledge and passion to be retained by the teams we serve.”

After a half-hour caucus, MMB’s lead spokesperson returned to the Zoom event and said, “Although we do have shared interest in diversity and inclusion efforts, eliminating or issuing additional rights to temporary unclassified appointments is not the way we’d like to solve the issues you feel there are.”

After that, the more than 300 MAPE members in attendance launched a campaign to escalate their concerns to Governor Walz. If you’re interested in joining in this action, get more information here.