President's Corner: March
The month of March honors Women’s History. I want to thank the incredible women in our union who step into leadership roles to fight for the needs of the collective. I grew up believing I could be anything and anyone and I owe it to the women in my life who help me prove that to be true every day.
MAPE Election Nominations Close March 29
MAPE needs you to nominate members to lead our union. Candidates are needed for statewide, regional, local, and special elections. Nominations close on Monday 29 March. Please consider nominating someone or yourself for open positions. There are still many positions that do not have anyone nominated. Take control of your future and run for one of these important roles. Send all nominations for local offices to your local nominations committee and all regional or statewide nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org
Health and Safety
Dept. Of Corrections’ MAPE Meet and Confer Chair Angela Halseth, Business Agents Debbie Prokopf and Nic Frey, and I have been doing correctional facility site visits around the state. So far, we have been to Lino Lakes, Shakopee, and Saint Cloud to talk with members. Members are feeling like things might be on their way to returning to “normal.” Most of the members I met in Saint Cloud have more than 30 years of service in DOC. We have more site visits happening every Thursday afternoon at different State prisons for the next few weeks and hope to visit every correctional facility in DOC.
We have successfully advocated to move all DOC staff working in the secured perimeter to the 1b category for vaccination priorities.
Department of Revenue and Department of Agriculture drafted MOUs in response to the departments ending their leases in several buildings. The agencies want their employees to continue teleworking, but our members need to be accommodated because the employer can revoke telework arrangements at any time. We need to work on contract language that protects telework agreements.
Governor Walz has revoked the Executive Order for mandatory work from home and it is now only a recommendation. We have received a commitment from MMB Commissioner Schowalter that State agencies will continue as planned and look to phase back to in-person work starting late July through Labor Day. I will ensure MAPE is involved in the enterprise back-to-work framework and we will be involved in decisions at the agency level.
Negotiations Committee members have been grinding through decisions to finalize opening proposals and the proposals are being grouped together into themes as we prepare for the 6 April opener with MMB.
I have begun the exploration of cost-savings measures through a restructure of the RFP process for Pharmacy Benefits Managers. The current model is based out of New Jersey public-sector union health care bargaining with annual savings of around 15 percent. Colorado has begun drafting legislation for a similar restructuring. We plan to discuss the option with our labor partners at the bi-weekly meetings.
Summit with the Governor
On 10 March, we held our Summit with Governor Walz and MMB Commissioner Schowalter. Between Zoom and YouTube, we brought together more than 1,000 members to highlight how State employees can continue to serve Minnesotans through the pandemic and recovery. Four members shared their stories; Maureen Dunaway (DEED), John Redding (DHS-DCT), Robin Windsperger (DOC), and Valerie Dorff (DOC).
Governor Walz committed to making sure agency Commissioners act on his guidance and expectation that they will work directly with labor to have us at the table when policy decisions are being made. I told Walz, “MAPE members have been central to Minnesota’s quality of life and the care and relief of its citizens throughout the pandemic. The services we provide will continue to be key to an equitable recovery. Our state requires maintaining continuity of public service for a successful recovery, including continuity of our contract.” I also told him that if we return to what was normal then we will have missed an opportunity. This was our first virtual action and it was an overwhelming success.
MMB’s February forecast showed a projected $1.6 billion surplus for the FY 22-23 biennium, which was a $2.8 billion positive change. With the approaching legislative committee bill deadlines and the Governor revising his budget requests, MAPE will continue to advocate for raising revenue to ensure strong recovery for those most impacted by the pandemic and fully funding State agencies.
Personally, I have worked in states with right-to-work legislation and non-union jobs where my boss could fire me without reason. This campaign succinctly explains why, for as long as I have a choice, I will never do that again. Everyone should have the ability to collectively bargain and we need a progressive tax structure where the wealthy pay their fair share in order to have a strong working class.