Member stories and small group work highlight latest round of contract negotiations

Publish Date

Negotiators from MAPE and Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) met again at the bargaining table April 24-26 to further discuss proposals for MAPE’s 2019-2021 contract.  

Region 2 Negotiations Committee Representative Tyrone Plunkett

Region 2 Negotiations Committee Representative Tyrone Plunkett said that members in his locals are showing more interest than usual in contract negotiations. This 2019-2021 contract is the third one Plunkett has worked on and he attributes the increased interest to some of the new member engagement work being done this year. 

Right photo: Region 2 Negotiations Committee Representative Tyrone Plunkett studies contract proposals as he prepares for a small group discussion on job classifications.

“We did so much to prepare for this contract negotiation with blitzes, listening sessions and using themes to prepare our proposals. We’ve also invited members in to tell their stories, which have been powerful and helpful.

“The fact that we asked the meet and confer and supplemental teams to work with the Negotiations Committee beforehand has been another welcome change,” Plunkett noted. Plunkett is a senior IT specialist with MNIT at the Dept. of Human Services (DHS).  

Six members spoke with negotiators to help put a “face” on workforce development and equality and inclusion proposals and their stories were live-streamed on MAPE’s Facebook page.

One in five Americans carry student loan debt, and student loan debt reimbursement is an issue important to members of all ages. According to Forbes magazine, “Student Loan Repayment is The Hottest Employee Benefit of 2018.”

Local 501 member Kimberly Malone

On April 25, Dept. of Employment and Economic Development Investigator and Local 501 member Kimberly Malone told negotiators how she and her husband, an elementary special education teacher, owe more than $430,000 on their student loans. The local 501 member told negotiators what a difference a student loan debt reimbursement program for state employees would make in her life and how such a program would help the state recruit and retain high-quality employees.

Left photo (from left to right): Kimberly Malone, DEED;  Jennifer Johnson, MSOP; Mark Lenling, Metro State University and Negotiations Co-chair Maggie Dreon discussed the importance of professional development programs to help recruit and retain a quality workforce.

A handful of state agencies are already offering professional development programs to assist employees with higher education through student loan debt repayment or tuition assistance.

Jennifer Johnson, a clinician at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program at Moose Lake, was able to participate in a student loan repayment reimbursement program available to DHS employees working in Direct Care and Treatment Services. Local 1201 President Mark Lenling, an environmental health and safety officer at Metro State, spoke about how he can pursue a master’s degree with help from the professional development credits offered by Minnesota State.  

Negotiations Committee Co-chair and Local 902 President Maggie Dreon, a geneticist with the Dept. of Health, also discussed certification and licensure issues. 

Local 202’s Miguel Lindgren and Kasey Scarpello

On April 26, Local 202's Miguel Lindgren and Kasey Scarpello, both employed with MNIT at DHS, told negotiators why their employment uncertainty as temporary unclassified workers hurts state employee recruitment and retention efforts. 

Right photo: Local 202’s Miguel Lindgren and Kasey Scarpello, both employed with MNIT at DHS, told negotiators why their employment uncertainty as temporary unclassified workers hurt state employee recruitment and retention efforts.    

“They talked about how being temporary classified employees really impacted their lives and abilities to do the work for Minnesota,” Negotiations Committee Co-chair and Region 19 representative Lynn Butcher said. “We really appreciate hearing your stories, so please send yours to stories@mape.org.

The MAPE and MMB negotiations teams also broke into small work groups to further discuss worker classifications, student loans, phased-retirement, leave, discipline and other areas. “We moved out of the more formal negotiations setting and broke into smaller groups so we could have more natural dialogue about where there are opportunities for us to have common ground. Those were really informative and will help shape and move proposals as we go through this process. It really led to some good conversations,” Dreon said.  

Butcher added, “One of the things that the small groups enabled us to do was really understand where MMB’s proposals are coming from and what problems they’re trying to solve and help them understand what we’re trying to do as well.”

More than 200 members wore union buttons and stickers to work to show contract support and solidarity and then shared photos on MAPE’s social media channels as part of Button Up Day on April 25.

“It was really fun, and we started to post your pictures in the back of the room so every time their team would come in, they’d see more and more of your pictures,” Dreon said. “It means the world to have your support. It definitely energized the team when things were getting kind of long and we really appreciated it.”

The negotiating teams will next meet at the bargaining table at the end of May.

To view the member stories shared during negotiations and photos of #MAPEbuttonup day, visit: https://www.facebook.com/MAPEmn/