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Members question gubernatorial hopefuls at MAPE forum

Gubernatorial forum

Above, MAPE hosted a gubernatorial forum Friday in Minneapolis. Six DFL candidates and one Republican attended to answer members' questions.

Nearly 100 politically-minded members had the opportunity to participate in a gubernatorial forum on Friday, Dec. 8, and question the seven candidates on issues important to their work and contract.

The bipartisan gubernatorial forum was sponsored by MAPE’s Political Action Committee (PAC), moderated by Chair Cathleen Cotter and livestreamed on Facebook.

Candidates participating in the forum included Democrats St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, State Auditor Rebecca Otto, Congressman Tim Walz, and state representatives Tina Liebling, Erin Murphy and Paul Thissen. Former Minnesota Republican Party Chair Keith Downey was the only Republican gubernatorial candidate who accepted MAPE’s invitation to participate in the forum.

Sue Opsahl

In the photo on the right, MAPE member Sue Opsahl asks a question of the candidates at MAPE's gubernatorial forum.

All seven candidates agreed that employees should have the right to collective bargaining. Coleman said he and his staff had negotiated many contracts over the 12 years he has served as mayor and they’ve “always done it with respect for employees.”

Thissen said he wanted “to take employee contracts away from the Legislature –- most states bargain between the governor and the workers.” When he served as speaker of the House, he refused to allow any amendments to state contracts on the House floor because he “believes in collective bargaining. This last session they tried to even make the SER [Subcommittee on Employee Relations] worse. I worked overnight to make sure that didn’t happen.”

Zach Dorholt

MAPE member Zachary Dorholt asks a question of the candidates at MAPE's gubernatorial forum.

There was disagreement about the future of members’ pension plans. All seven agreed that the state must honor the pension commitments it has made to retirees. The Democratic candidates said that defined benefit plan should remain, but Downey said other options like defined contributions should be explored.

Otto has served on the Minnesota Public Employees Retirement Association board of directors for a dozen years. “Minnesota is not a broken state. Defined benefit provides for retirement security, defined contribution does not. In Minnesota, 70 cents of every dollar that we paid out to pensioners over the last 20-30 years is through investment gains.”

Kathleen Cotter

In the photo on the right, MAPE PAC Chair Cathleen Cotter moderated of the forum.

Sexual harassment and assault are getting much attention nationwide as well as at the state Capitol. Murphy said she would like to work with MAPE to make sure there is contract language on how to protect state workers. “I was dismayed to learn that different state agencies are attacking this issue in different ways. I want to make sure that there’s a benchmark across the state of Minnesota and across the agencies. The way to achieve that is to make sure that we embed it in the contract so you are protected.”

The moderator (Cotter) and seven members asked the candidates a total of 15 questions. The complete forum video is available on MAPE's Facebook page.

Minnesota’s political parties will hold their 2018 caucuses on Feb. 6. Early next year, MAPE will provide training for members who want to participate in their caucuses.