Steward Spotlight: Region 18
Like other MAPE regions featuring multiple chief stewards, members in Greater Minnesota’s Region 18 will find a tag-teaming duo in Lorna King and Russell Derickson. King serves from her longtime post in IT at Ridgewater College and Derickson as a soil scientist at the Dept. of Agriculture.
King grew up in a labor family and got involved in AFSCME originally and stayed involved in union work when promoted into MAPE. And like many union stewards, Derickson said he became a steward when his agency overstepped their rights and a grievance ended in his favor thanks to dedicated union stewards and his business agent.
“I was really blindsided by that and I figured that I have to be able to know what’s going on and protect myself and others,” Derickson said. “Since then I’ve been a steward and an advocate for others who had issues with their employer as well.”
In addition to growing up in a union household, King was also lucky enough to work alongside two of the Willmar 8, women who went on strike at a western Minnesota bank over charges of sex discrimination.
“That’s kind of why I was interested in equal work for equal pay because I didn't feel that was happening,” King said. “Having the union behind us and having the right to have a position evaluated is why I moved from ITS1 to ITS2. I believe our union helps keep wages up and fairness maintained.”
The pair of chief stewards said their shared skills and shared duties make for a positive experience for them as leaders and for the members they help represent.
“If you have someone who wants some assistance, they have two chiefs to choose from and that’s reassuring to have choices to call for help,” Derickson said.
“And we bounce stuff off each other, and have tag teamed investigations together,” King added. “I like being involved. If you’re going to be a part of something, you should be involved rather than just taking the benefits.”
King has seen firsthand the benefits of being involved in MAPE. She said being a leader in MAPE has helped in her career and in further developing her leadership skills.
“I like having the contract and following rules, and I like the interpretation part,” King said. “I’ve stayed involved because I have a good relationship with our Human Resources department and our executive team and I like talking things through with them.”
Developing relationships with agency leadership has been important to Derickson, too.
“There’s only one person older than me between me and the governor as far as chain of command goes. Being long in the tooth gives me perspective,” he said. “Greener supervisors are doing a lot of learning, making judgment calls and they don’t know our contract as well. I want to be someone to turn to.”
“In our last Meet and Confer we discussed needing mental health resources for our staff, since past discussions focused on our student population,” King recalled. “We had a few members who needed some personalized help. When they contacted the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), they left a message expecting to receive a call back, and never received a timely response.”
With the support of fellow members, King took the initiative and set up a Meet and Confer with the college president to advocate for prioritizing staff mental health. The college ended up investigating the issue and found EAP providers had been switched, causing the confusion.
It was announced in a recent campus bulletin that the college is piloting a new counseling service available to all employees that will run through the end of June and be evaluated before continuing.
“This was a positive ‘victory’ all around, and that’s why we’re always open to partnering with our employer to figure out what’s going on,” King said. “We share perspectives, try to stay positive, and for the most part we come to a consensus. We wouldn’t be able to do that without the union contract.”
If you need help contacting a steward in your region, find more information online.