Steward Spotlight: Region 3
Though her childhood dreams of becoming a lawyer didn’t come to fruition, MAPE Region 3 Chief Steward Kristin Kirchoff-Franklin says her passion for advocacy comes in handy when helping members navigate situations at work.
“I’m a huge believer in people knowing their rights,” Kirchoff-Franklin said about her role as a steward. “When I was little I always wanted to be a lawyer and although that dream didn't come true for me, I still get to do a little bit of that in protecting the MAPE contract and our members.”
She said at the core of that passion is her desire to help people, something she gets to do often as a chief steward for her MAPE region.
“Every interaction I have with MAPE members
and supporting staff is always unique and every situation is different, and that’s what makes this rewarding,” she said. “New situations and the range of situations we help with keeps it interesting.”
As a 14-year employee at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Kirchoff-Franklin says she’s always learning new things and trying to defy the stigma that steward-management relationships are always adversarial.
“There’s a misconception that it’s an antagonistic relationship, but that’s not the case,” she said about stewards and agency leadership. “Usually there are decent relationships between management or human resources and stewards - we’re just another resource for members.”
Kirchoff-Franklin said she’s always happy to answer any member’s questions or respond to a situation she’s never encountered before.
“If you’re on the fence, just reach out and ask the question. Stewards maintain confidentiality and we don't share information or jump on situations. We listen. If you’re unsure, ask the question,” she said. “Stewards are necessary to help members get through challenges when our contract is tested.”
She urges anyone looking for a way to get more involved in our union to try out becoming a steward.
“If you’re thinking of a way to be active in our union, a steward is a great way to get started. You’re not thrown into the fire right away. It’s a great way to get involved and get to know your coworkers,” Kirchoff-Franklin said. “This is fulfilling for me. I just want to help people and this is one way to do that.”