President’s Corner: February
Black History Month
February celebrates Black History month and I want to recognize many of our MAPE members who organized, hosted or attended events. A special thank you to the Equity and Justice Black Caucus, a statewide Employee Resource Group chaired by Maurice Wilson, for organizing the thought-provoking Black History Month Films, Speakers and Discussions series. The series has been powerful and educational.
Another special thank you to Region 7 Director Ellena Schoop, who shared her story both during the Black History Month Films, Speakers and Discussions series and as one of our member features this month. If you missed it, check out her story, From Black Panthers to playwright and changemaker. You can also read how Local 801’s April Lucas' career was impacted by Minnesota civil rights activist and union organizer Nellie Stone Johnson and why her reach is felt today at MnDOT. We enjoy celebrating our amazing members!
DOC Listening Series
On Thursdays, for the last four weeks, the Department of Corrections (DOC) Meet and Confer Team held agency-wide listening sessions to discuss health and safety. During the second listening session, we heard about safety concerns from our members and I was shocked by some of the things I heard. One member in field services told me that they were afraid something would happen to them during a home visit and, because there are no check-ins, radios, or safety protocols, no one would know about it. We have a lot of work to do in DOC. I am looking forward to site visits at each facility.
We have a lot of activities occurring as we head into contract negotiations with the administration. The Negotiations Committee is currently reviewing your input from the survey, listening sessions and the ideas webform and drafting proposals. On Feb. 3, 4 and 24, the Negotiations Team reviewed dozens of proposals and reached a shared understanding of proposals related to bereavement leave, holidays, sick leave use and accrual, and vacation accrual. We discussed gaps in our proposal concepts and began narrowing our list of proposals. This process is about all of us and the power we have when we work together. I invite you to join me at one of our biggest events of the session, The Summit with the Governor.
Summit with the Governor
The virtual Summit with Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan will be on Wednesday, Mar. 10, at 12 p.m. This will be a wonderful opportunity for members to share stories and highlight the ways state employees can continue to be key to helping our state and residents move from COVID-19 relief to recovery. Register here and watch for an email from us the day before with the Zoom link, a digital background to use during the meeting and some sample social media messages to post before and after the event.
MAPE member Jackie Mahon from the Minnesota Department of Health testified at the Capitol Area Safety Advisory Committee on Feb. 2. Committee members including Chair Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and Majority Leader Ryan Winkler listened to her testify about security needs at the Public Health Lab.The hearing brought media attention to the need for safety upgrades at the Capitol Complex, MN State Workers Call for Safer Conditions Amid Political Tension. Work has already begun to address the Public Health Lab issues Jackie raised! Great work, Jackie!
I met with the Governor’s staff to discuss the budget before it was released earlier this month. We explained our position on the budget in our desire to see permanent revenue increases and having corporations and wealthy Minnesotans paying their fair share. We know there is much work ahead of us to go from COVID-19 relief to recovery, and our members stand ready to help advance equitable solutions to support workers, families, students, and small businesses hit hardest by the pandemic while providing the quality public services Minnesotans deserve. MAPE members stepped up to help Minnesotans fight this deadly virus.
MAPE’s Board of Directors expressed interest in becoming more involved in agency back-to-work plans; in particular, to ensure that worksites are not reopened before state employees have had the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. We want to ensure members have trusted sources for vaccination information including the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control.
Member leaders are the lifeblood of our union. I’d like to thank and congratulate Angela Halseth on becoming the chair of the Dept. of Corrections Meet and Confer committee and Jessica Raptis on becoming the vice chair. Additionally, please help me congratulate Chris Smith and Whitney Terrill who were voted vice president and secretary, respectively, of the Building Corporation Committee.
More than 40 leaders from 19 locals were part of MAPE’s first-ever virtual membership outreach efforts Feb. 1-4. Leaders contacted hundreds of MAPE-represented employees hired in the last two years. Sixteen new members were recruited and we sent 268 follow-up emails so conversations are ongoing and membership cards continue to trickle in. Nice work to all who participated!
We featured member Jennifer Nguyen Moore at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) who was recently nationally recognized with Rachel’s Network Catalyst Award celebrating women of color who are building a healthier, safer, and more just world. I am honored to be Jennifer’s coworker.
Agency Days on the Hill
We have several agency-specific Days on the Hill in the works. Even if your agency is not having a Day on the Hill, we encourage you to show solidarity with our members who are and help amplify our messages on social media.
To echo the words of poet Amanda Gorman, our union and our work together has not been perfect but it was forged with purpose. While the last year has been challenging, the success we have achieved is due to our work together. Unions consist of a diversity of opinions, experiences, outlooks and interests and MAPE is no exception. We are a democratic union, which is often a messy, complicated, and unfinished proposition – yet we remain committed to our mission. Striving to improve our members’ lives during challenging times has driven our work. The strength of our union comes from our members’ participation and we need all of you now more than ever. Thank you for helping us improve the lives of all Minnesotans and strengthening democracy.