MAPE members meet with Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan
MAPE members discussed investment in government services, temporary unclassified workers and other topics when they met virtually with Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan on Oct. 5. Members from the Departments of Health, Corrections, Human Services (DHS), Agriculture, Administration and Revenue participated in the meeting.
Members shared stories about their frontline experiences responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Members said their work is needed now more than ever and emphasized the importance of investing in government services. While discussing the upcoming budget, the group highlighted the importance of increasing revenue and keeping services public and not privatized. The group also asked the governor to participate in a meeting in January where they could discuss temporary unclassified employees and other topics.
MAPE President Megan Dayton asked the governor to champion the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share in the next biennium that turned to the issue of privatization. “Governor Walz, you are a public-school teacher. We don’t think it will be hard for you to understand that what we have found here is less than satisfactory. Our Direct Care and Treatment division of DHS is a comprehensive system that cares for patients’ evolving needs with unmatched expertise,” Dayton said.
“By closing access to facilities in Greater Minnesota and the way that private nonprofits often balance their budgets on the backs of their workers, we are quite clear that privatizing our DCT system is not the way to cut costs; that is no more than a short-term solution. It is a way to shift costs and in doing that, we can all expect increased costs down the road both in actual dollars as well as a toll on those working and receiving services in the system.”
Senior epidemiologist Stephanie Meyer is now working on the frontlines as a contact tracer for the Dept. of Health. “I have interviewed the family members of people who have died in my home community, and I take the work we are doing very seriously. None of us thought we would still be doing this level of investigation at this scale now that we have reached 100,000 cases.”
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan affirmed how personal this issue is to her and her family. The Lt. Gov lost her brother to COVID-19 earlier this year.
MAPE Secretary Lynn Butcher shared with the administration how DCT is coping with the pandemic, “We have weathered the pandemic well, minimizing spread and mitigating impact where COVID-19 has emerged, but our system has felt the impact of the political and economic crises.”
“The political battle has resulted in the Senate refusing to act on deficiency funding, and a scaling back of our staff and services, despite expert consensus that we are on the verge of a mental health crisis resulting from social distancing, institutional destruction and social upheaval. At a time when Minnesota should be preserving and adding mental health beds, we are eliminating them,” Butcher added.
Dept. of Corrections Meet and Confer Chair Seal Dwyer carried a message from her committee to the administration, “Those of us who have worked for the State for many years often hear we need to ‘do more with less.’ But please hear us: we can no longer do more with less without significantly compromising the missions of our agencies.”
Nick Roth, an analyst at the Dept. of Agriculture’s produce safety program, addressed the issue of temporary unclassified employees. While appreciative of the new procedure to appeal the temporary unclassified designation following a March meeting, Roth said members had concerns about the appeal process and hoped it would be improved.
Roth said the appeals policy does not have clear transparent criteria, puts all of the work on the employee to prove the State made a mistake and adds roadblocks to the employee being able to do that, “We hope our concerns are addressed before the new procedure is implemented; we plan on testing it, monitoring its effectiveness and working with you and MMB to improve it.”
Whitney Terrill, who chairs the Meet and Confer Committee at DHS and is chair of all of MAPE’s Meet and Confer Committees, pressed the administration to engage with Meet and Confer Committees as agency budgets are drafted.
“We hope you will ask your agency leadership to meet with us and share budget information for a better Minnesota. This information allows us to join you in thinking through all of these important decisions. As a union, we have historically helped to identify savings that will ease the impact of privatization, program or other cuts, and the sheer risk of leading without full engagement with our members and the representatives designated to support these key issues.” Terrill said.
The governor and Lt. governor recognized that the key to the success of the meeting will be following up on MAPE’s requests and directed his staff to do so. He said they want to include MAPE members in discussions on the important topics discussed. The governor also agreed to a follow-up meeting in January 2021.