Jettie Ann Hill: Union leader, political activist and mentor

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Shortly before Local 1101’s Jettie Ann Hill received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Women in Public Service Conference last month, she seemed stunned as she listened to the tributes.

Jettie Ann Hill headshot

“This is a really big deal,” she whispered.

Photo at right: Local 1101's Jettie Ann Hill.

Hill was honored for her commitment to public service at the annual conference hosted by Hamline University’s School of Business. According to Local 2101’s Nicole Juan, who nominated Hill for the award, “Jettie Ann Hill is a passionate public servant and community volunteer. She’s been active in fighting for families and against disparities in child protection for decades at the state with the Office of Ombudsperson for Families. She’s been an instrumental leader in MAPE where she has held many leadership positions.”

MAPE Executive Director Lina Jamoul said the award was well-deserved. “Jettie Ann Hill is an accomplished and passionate public servant, union leader and community volunteer. She will always keep going in the face of adversity and I appreciate her advice to younger union leaders to ‘always keep going.’ She has inspired everyone in our union through her commitment to workers’ rights,” Jamoul added.

Hill has been a MAPE member for more than 25 years. She co-founded the Women’s Committee, led the Government Relations Committee and is a past president and steward of Local 1101.

Hill also is a member of the DFL State Central Committee and serves as co-chair of her Senate District. “Jettie Ann Hill has been an outstanding leader in the fight for a more just and equitable Minnesota. The core mission of the DFL is improving the lives of Minnesotans across our state. Jettie Ann’s activism within our party, her work on behalf of DFL candidates, and her fight for racial justice and gender equality personify that mission,” DFL Chair Ken Martin said.

She chaired MAPE’s Government Relations Committee (GRC), the precursor to MAPE’s  Political Council, for a decade. “We have to encourage members to get involved with campaigns. Some of it is door knocking and phone banking, but data people are needed, so are people who do graphics and have other skills,” she said.

Jettie Ann Hill receives Lifetime Achievement Award pictured with Nicole Juan

Photo at left (left to right): Hill, holding the Women In Public Service Lifetime Achievement Award, with Local 2101's Nicole Juan.

“Jettie Ann has been a role model for me. When she was chair of the GRC, she took time to work with me and the younger women on the committee. Her role has led to increased political engagement from state employees, She is a strong advocate for equal rights, women’s rights in the workplace, in the union, and in political parties,” Juan said.

Hill said she, Sarah Hustad and Marge Ramsey “strategically went about creating a Women’s Committee.” She said that women were not well represented on the Board of Directors, despite being 60 percent of the membership. “When we kicked-off the Women’s Committee in 2010, women from all over came to the reception to acknowledge what labor could be doing – elected officials, current and former MAPE members, and other union members, too,” she said.

ERA Yes rall with Jettie Hill and others

Photo at right: Hill holding an ERA YES sign, second from left in the second row, at an ERA rally.

Hill, a well-known ERA advocate, said “getting a group of women to Washington, DC to talk about reauthorizing the ERA” and working on Margaret Anderson Kelliher’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign with other MAPE members are two of her favorite memories.

“We need to focus on helping women run for office – women of all backgrounds and ages. I want to see our legislature be more reflective of our state’s population. Women often are responsible for the budgets of their families – but they’re compassionate budget keepers,” Hill added. 

“It was very exciting to be working for a woman candidate. Margaret had so many good women on her campaign staff and good organizers from everywhere,” Hill said.  

MAPE’s progression to relational organizing is something Hill agrees with. “You have to talk to members one-on-one and really listen. You must establish relationships and listen. You don’t always want to do this on the job – ask to meet up after work sometime. It’s not easy work but it makes a difference.,” she said. “People feel good when ‘I see you – you’re on my team.’ I want to find out more about you and you know more about me – without judgement,”” Hill said. “It’s like sisters and brothers, sometimes you agree, sometimes you don’t, but you’re still family.”

“It always surprises me about good one-on-one people. It can be the most introverted ones: good listeners, countering arguments logically and in tone,” she added.   

Hill has one son, Amir, who lives with his wife and two daughters in Columbus, Ohio. According to Hill, her six-year-old granddaughter Zuri “loves to Facetime with me. She was so excited and told me how proud she was of me when I showed her the Women in Public Service Award.”

“One-year-old Zarah is very independent and a take-charge kind of person so I could see her as a future politician,” Hill joked.