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Local 601 focuses on new members and new employees

The expected anti-union ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Janus v AFSCME lawsuit is what made Local 601’s Mattie Jensen join MAPE last week. Jensen said she had been going to union meetings and “hearing that the fee-payer option was going away. I just wanted to contribute," she said.

Local 601 coffee

In the photo on the right from left to right, new member Mattie Jensen and Membership Secretary Sarah Evans prepare for Local 601's coffee break to attract new members and thank current ones.

Jensen, who began working for the Health Department in January, serves as a health educator in the Children and Youth with Special Health Needs Division. She said she is especially pleased with the recently secured 2017-19 contract. “I’m happy about paid parental leave, the raises and the new vacation accrual policy. I’ve never before had an advocate who negotiated a better contract for me.”

That’s exactly what Local 601 Membership Secretary Sarah Evans likes to hear.

“We’ve been talking about the Janus case and have heard anecdotally that the case makes people want to contribute. It’s a setback in a lot of ways for unions, but it will propel fee payers to become members. We’ve ramped up our agency-based strategies in response to Janus and are trying to determine touch-points for people,” Evans said.

She said Local 601 leaders have spent the past year developing a sustainable recruitment plan but admitted it’s been challenging because the local is home to so many different agencies: Commerce, Health, MNsure and Disability Determination Services.

Earlier this week Local 601 hosted a coffee break, complete with seven dozen doughnuts, for more than 75 members and would-be members from its many agencies. Four people signed membership cards at the event and several others promised to reconsider signing cards following the Janus decision.

“We have weekly membership meetings to discuss what’s been working, what the needs are. From there, we started to branch out into agency-related teams to work on new employee orientation, who is going and what do we need. I send out biweekly new state employee data to the team, so they can use it to structure their own plans for agencies,” Evans said.

The Health Department, where Evans works in the health economics division, has four new employee orientations annually. “Our next one will be in August. We need to find out when the others are and do a schedule regarding who is going to go because it is important to reach people when they first start,” she said.

“At Health, we’ve also started little coffee breaks after the orientation. We’re fine-tuning how to do these for other agencies. We want to build community through these smaller breaks and have people get a better feel for the union.”

Jensen said her new union card will make it easier to talk with colleagues about joining MAPE. “If I’m receiving all these benefits from the contract, I should be paying for them. I’ll remind non-members that membership dues are not that much more than what they were paying as a fee payer.”