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MAPE members tell legislators: Pass our contract

Contract rally crowd

MAPE members and allies packed the Capitol steps Tuesday to tell legislators to pass our contract.

"Pass our contract" was the message delivered to legislators by a boisterous crowd of more than 1,000 MAPE members and allies Tuesday noon on the steps of the state Capitol. MAPE’s message was delivered loud and clear as it echoed through the chilly February air while the 2018 legislative session was beginning inside. Underscoring the crowd's message was the fact that the large crowd of members and allies bundled up in heavy-duty winter clothing to attend the rally on a frigid, wintry day.

The legislative Subcommittee on Employee Relations (SER) recommended in early October that the Legislature reject MAPE’s and AFSCME Council 5’s 2017-19 contracts. The Republicans hold the majority in both the House and Senate and, as a result, have the majority of members on SER.

“While our legislators are inside kicking off the first day of the 2018 legislative session, I think it’s important they hear our message loud and clear,” said MAPE Statewide President Chet Jorgenson. He then led the crowd in several rounds of chanting the “pass our contract” message.

Contract rally Chet Jorgenson

In the photo on the right, MAPE Statewide President Chet Jorgenson led the large crowd with several rounds of chanting the "pass our contract" message.

With a legislative raise included in the upcoming budget that will be voted on, Jorgenson pointed out that no legislator should be voting for a 45 percent increase in their own pay without supporting the modest pay increase for state employees.

Two MAPE members added their voices to the “pass our contract” message.

Local 1301 member Angie Arnold, director of grants and sponsored projects at Normandale Community College, pointed to the need for a strong base of state employees to provide excellent services for all Minnesotans.

Angie Arnold contract rally

In the photo on the right, MAPE member Angie Arnold gets the crowd charged up.

“Every day, we’re doing the work that keeps our state great,” Arnold said. “That’s why we need this contract. It’s fair and can help the state keep and attract good employees to do the work to keep Minnesota strong. Investing in us is investing in Minnesota. We can’t have one without the other.”

MAPE member Nikki Engen, who has been a collection officer at the Department of Revenue for more than 10 years, discovered from personal experience the power MAPE members have when they join forces.

Contract rally Nikki Engen

In the photo on the right, MAPE member Nikki Engen told the crowd about her personal experience that helped her "find her voice" to stand up for others.

“For years, I worked in a hostile work environment,” Engen said. “Though the target wasn’t on my back, I watched my colleagues suffer physical and mental health effects stemming from bullying in the workplace.

“It wasn’t until we banded together with one unified voice that agency leadership finally responded to our pleas for help,” Engen said. "When the time came to share our experiences with our division director and commissioner, I was designated to speak on behalf of everyone who worked in the unit. That day, our agency leadership promised that life would change for us in Ely. And it did.

“That experience helped me find my own voice. I simply couldn’t sit by any longer. I advocate for others because I must do something for the greater good of humanity,” Engen pointed out. “It’s not just about me, it’s about 'us.' I’m proud to have the backs of my coworkers, and I know they will always have mine. It’s crucial at a time like this, because our backs are up against the wall. We’re facing a Supreme Court case that aims to weaken public sector unions like ours and we’re fighting right here at home for the passage of our reasonable and affordable MAPE contract.”

Engen challenged rally attendees to sign up for this year’s Day on the Hill and come back to the Capitol March 21 to ask legislators face-to-face to pass our contract. Go here to register:

State Rep. Deb Hilstrom voiced her support for approval of MAPE’s contract. “I think it’s only fair if the Legislature is voting on its own pay raise, we should also vote on the contract of the workers who make our state run,” Hilstrom said. “This is a reasonable and affordable contract."

Contract rally Deb Hilstrom

In the photo on the right, state Rep. Deb Hilstrom voiced her support for MAPE members and legislative approval of their contract.

Hilstrom pointed out that while MAPE’s negotiated 2017-19 contract calls for a 2 percent raise the first year and 2.25 percent the second year, private sector wage increases are higher. The average wage increase in the private sector last year was 3.1, and private sector wages are expected to go up 3.2 percent this year.

“I will stand with state workers and demand fair treatment, respect and an affordable contract,” Hilstrom said.

Contract rally Eric Hoffer

In the photo on the right, Pastor Eric Hoffer voiced his support for state employees and the approval of MAPE's contract.

Eric Hoffer, pastor at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in St. Louis Park, is passionate about building relationships in his neighborhood and surrounding communities. He pointed out that state employees bring value to the community. “We need to come together to support people like you,” Hoffer said.

Jorgenson thanked AFSCME Council 5, AFSCME 65, AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, Middle Management Association, SEIU and Minnesota Government Engineering Council for adding their voices of support at the rally.

Below, the line of bundled-up MAPE members and allies headed to the rally stretched down the mall sidewalk as they checked in and headed to the rally.

Contract rally members check in