Region 9 prepares listening sessions for 300
Getting ready for negotiations
Leaders throughout MAPE are meeting with members to craft plans to hold listening sessions with 5,000 members across the state to hear their impressions of the union and ideas about issues MAPE should tackle next. Information gleaned from the listening sessions will be shared with MAPE’s Negotiations Committee to help prioritize proposals.
Maggie Dreon (pictured on the right), Negotiations Committee co-chair and Local 902 president, recently held Region 9’s first contract action team meeting. About 15 people showed up to the gathering to discuss ways to identify other local leaders so they can ensure 300 members in their region participate in listening sessions by the end of November.
“We want to identify key themes for a worker platform and develop a contract action team to centralize around these issues,” Dreon told the team. “My goal is to circle back and keep you in the loop. I’m not going to rally around something that doesn’t have support. We have to find issues that people care about and are willing to act on. Listening sessions are a vehicle to find those stories and move the needle forward.”
Region 9 plans to have several smaller listening sessions take place during local meetings. Local 901 Vice President Holly La Rochelle helped train nearly 20 members to be listening session facilitators. “I think this is a great way to get people involved at a minimum time commitment. We modeled the facilitation behavior they would be asked to do and afterward asked if they felt comfortable doing it. We had more people commit to being facilitators than I anticipated, especially new people who had not engaged at that level before.”
In the photo on the right, Region 9’s contract action team plans upcoming listening sessions.
She added, “Members’ presence is important -- whether it’s in front of the Capitol at a rally or in the commissioner’s office. This gives us a win-win and a shared mission.”
The goal of the listening sessions is to discover issues broadly supported by union members. Members will then be able to build teams and determine what issues members care about and what they are willing to act on.
“I think we should have proposals the public is likely to support, like student loan forgiveness. Our ideas must appeal to the public and Minnesota Management and Budget,” Scott Beutel, a planning director with the Dept. of Human Rights, said.
Larry Souther, chair of the Constitution and Rules Committee, points out there are several different outlets that will be able to use information learned at the listening sessions: negotiations, meet and confer meetings and union stewards.
“We have to learn how we can build power, as we did with paid parental leave and the Respectful Workplace Policy, outside of the contract. We need to ask people to start thinking about what their role is in the process -- whether it’s meeting with their commissioners regarding retention issues, researching companies that have good programs for student debt reduction and other issues,” Souther said.
Dreon urges all MAPE employees to participate in listening sessions hosted by their locals. “If you have opinions, if you are passionate, if you have ideas, and if you like to take issues and find solutions -- now is the time to do that. This is the best time to do this because negotiations will affect 15,000 people. Paid parental leave is a great example that came out of a listening session. I’m excited to work on whatever the next issue is and be part of moving it forward.”