MAPE Business Agent Kathy Fodness to retire

Publish Date

On October 1, longtime MAPE business agent Kathy Fodness will hang up her union employee hat and start the next chapter of her life: retirement. Her journey in the labor movement started in the 1980s when she met a woman at Macalester College who recruited her to come to Cleveland to work for 9to5, an organization dedicated to improving working conditions and ensuring the rights of women and families in the United States. There she ran a national hotline collecting stories of sexual harassment that would eventually be used as testimony for Senator Ted Kennedy’s sexual harassment bill in Congress. 

After the passing of her mother, Kathy returned to Minnesota, wanting to care for her dad in New Ulm. She worked with healthcare workers in SEIU for 25 years, organizing, representing and holding a member-elected vice president position. Fodness recalled how excited she was to see the MAPE vacancy, which would keep her planted in Minnesota. In 2008 she accepted the job and joined MAPE as its newest business agent. 

“When I started with MAPE I was so welcomed; it really felt like home,” Fodness said. “I remember being so amazed at how it was really a member-driven union. That impressed me.”

Though that was 13 years ago, her passion for her union work has never waned during her nearly 40 years in the labor movement.

“I feel like I’ve been blessed by being able to work in a job I believe so deeply in,” Fodness said. 

“The successes happen when we are standing side by side with our stewards and members, that’s where the real partnership comes in, supporting my stewards in their role, working together as a team and safeguarding the contract,” she said. 

That day-to-day work alongside members is what she’ll miss most when she retires. And thanks to the pandemic, Fodness worries she’ll never be able to give a proper farewell to those she’s worked so closely with during her time at MAPE. 

“I feel so bad we’re still in the pandemic because I would love to go to all my regions and party and say goodbye,” she said. “It’s hard to go back and do that later, so this is my opportunity to thank those folks who I stood side by side with on a day to day basis.”

Those folks include her MAPE coworkers, who she says have always showed up when she needed it. 

“Along the way, my current coworkers showed so much support to me when I lost my dad and then my youngest brother. I’ll never forget that. I have some awesome coworkers.”

Though she plans to be around for a short time to do some transition work, Fodness said she’s looking forward to a little downtime at home and more time with friends, gardening, getting back to more piano time and maybe even some domestic chores.

MAPE is creating a retirement scrapbook for Kathy. All submissions are collected virtually, so please share well wishes, a memory, photo or sentiment in the book by Sept. 20. Go here to contribute to Kathy’s scrapbook: