President's Corner: June
June is traditionally a month full of new beginnings: high school commencements, weddings and the official start of summer. It is also the time to welcome new members to MAPE’s Board of Directors (BOD) and other local elected representatives. We have a plethora of talented members and are fortunate many of them have stepped up to lead our union.
I am pleased to welcome Angela Halseth to the board as MAPE’s new vice president. Angie is no stranger to many of you. She is currently president of Local 1303, chief steward for Region 13 and chair of the Meet and Confer team at the Department of Corrections. I am really looking forward to working with Angie to strengthen our union!
Due to the retirements of Regional Directors Shanna Schmitt (3), Ellena Schoop (7), Jerry Jeffries (19) and Sarah Sinderbrand (21), we also will be welcoming several new regional directors to the board: Mark Snyder (3), Axelina Swenson (7), Beth Zabel (19) and Vanessa Vogl (21). I look forward to working with all of our new directors and celebrating the many contributions of those retiring at our next board meeting on June 18.
We held our first virtual election forums this year and what struck me was how collegial members were toward each other. This is the sign of a healthy union and helps us better fight together for working people.
The Minnesota Legislature, however, doesn’t appear to be fighting for the working people who have kept State government running throughout the pandemic. Because Legislators have not yet reached a budget agreement, there could be a government shutdown on July 1. Nearly 38,000 State workers received notices over the Memorial Day holiday weekend that we would either be laid off or placed on unpaid leave if a budget is not approved by the end of June. Some workers in essential roles could be required to work no matter what.
For the Legislature not to pass a budget is an insult to MAPE members and other dedicated public servants who have worked nonstop over the past 15 months. It is time for the Legislature to do its job and pass a budget to prevent a shutdown. Minnesotans deserve to know if they will continue to receive services.
The Legislature will meet in special session beginning on June 14 for potential budget votes. The lack of a budget agreement has also affected contract negotiations and Push Week will now begin July 19.
We have been meeting virtually with Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) to negotiate our 2021-2023 contract. We came to the bargaining table with 30 proposals focusing on five themes: wages and health care; equity, diversity and inclusion; healthy workplace; mental health and wellbeing; and attraction and retention of employees.
MMB’s team greeted us with 143 proposals. Some of them are petty, like removing union space on agency bulletin boards to more serious ones that show a clear intention of union-busting with sweeping anti-union attacks – trying to control our MAPE stewards, imposing arbitrary restrictions on our ability to communicate with our coworkers, and even a proposal to eliminate seniority by pitting employees against one another under the guise of equity.
Our union, by the way, is the one that had real proposals on equity and commitments to anti-racism and an emphasis on the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) to the State workforce. We are asking for improvements to the Connect 700 program and temporary unclassified system among other EDI proposals.
Equity, diversity, and inclusion should be desired by all who live and work in our state. This past Memorial Day marked the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death. His murder sparked conversations about policing, social justice, and equity in Minnesota and around the world.
The pandemic has only made racial inequality worse. In Minnesota, as across the nation, people of color are more likely than white people to live in poverty. African-Americans are four times as likely to be living in poverty as whites. Our state has one of the nation’s worst education achievement gaps between Black and white kids: we ranked 50th when it comes to racial disparities in high school graduation rates.
Differential access to opportunity and structural racism—back through generations and up to the present—have contributed to these and other widely disparate economic outcomes by race.
As more and more Minnesotans receive vaccinations, there is greater talk about returning to “normal.” We must recognize that for many Minnesotans, getting back to “normal” isn’t good enough.
MAPE members are prepared to do whatever we can to help make our state more equitable to all Minnesotans. Within our union, the Organizing Council’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion group is developing a plan to help educate and involve members on EDI issues so we all will have the knowledge and opportunity to help make our workplaces and communities more equitable. Minnesota just may prove George Floyd’s young daughter Gianna right when she said, “Daddy changed the world.”