Steward Spotlight Region 9 - Dereck Richter

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Steward Spoltight Region 9

Though MAPE’s Region 9 Chief Steward Dereck Richter was hired to help protect surface water for the Dept. of Health, he’s been reassigned since April 2020 to full-time COVID-related work.

“I’m in charge of tracking any staff who work on COVID-19, even if outside the agency,” Richter said. “My unit manages all the data we collect on people working on the pandemic response.”

Richter’s role as chief steward is still fresh. He took over when his region’s previous chief steward retired and nobody else was interested in leading the steward group.

“I felt like I could bring some organizing and strategy to what we were doing. I asked what the stewards thought and everyone said, ‘You’d be a good fit,’ and they nominated me,” he said. “I’ve been actively involved in the union quite a bit in a non-steward role. I understand and read the contract and try to keep up on policies and language.”

In talking with fellow MAPE stewards, Richter says his region handles mostly routine steward requests, but under a wide variety of topics from grievances to healthcare savings enrollment.

“I’ve tried to ask our stewards where they feel weaknesses, and what they’d like to learn more about so we can train them up for when it’s time to show up at an investigation or laudermill,” Richter said. “As a steward, you’re not expected to know everything, just know where to find the answer.”

When talking with members in his role as chief steward, Richter says his primary goal is to walk people through all their options.

“I try to listen to people and get their perspective because the contract can be confusing and leave gray space for management to try and skirt around things,” he said.

One steward victory that resonates with Richter came when he helped a member secure the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodations needed to properly do their work.

“This person had a car accident and some brain functionality issues and they were seeking ADA accommodations. Their original request was denied and they were referred to me and I helped them fill it out and meet with their supervisor and human resources and in the end, we got quite a few accommodations for this person,” Richter said. “A couple months ago they sent a message about how they appreciated the work we did to help them keep doing their work.”

Like many fellow stewards and chiefs, Richter touts the importance of building relationships of mutual trust with labor relations staff.

“Just chat with them in general and get to know them and show them you’re not there to fight them, but to make sure you’re both understanding the contract correctly,” he said. “Opposing views may happen, but scheduling some time to meet them goes a long way when you might have an imposing issue down the road.”