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New employees, strong contract keep Local 1501 moving forward

Located in the north central area of the state, Local 1501 includes members from more than half-a-dozen government entities: Public Safety, Corrections, Health, Natural Resources, Transportation, Bemidji State University, and Board of Soil and Water Resources.

Since the local is comprised of so many locations, Membership Secretary Katherine Kingsland concentrates on contacting employees who are new to state government. “We’ve been emphasizing the good things in the contract: Paid parental leave, deferred compensation, affordable health care, dental benefits and the two percent pay increase,” she said.

Local 1501 BCA

In the photo on the right, from left to right, Local 1501’s Katherine Kingsland and Elizabeth Wilson are both BCA forensic scientists in Bemidji.

“There’s a big push to put a face on the union, ‘this is what we’re doing for you.’ This was definitely lacking 10 years ago when I started working in state government,” she added.

Kingsland, a forensic scientist with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) in Bemidji, worked with MAPE’s Membership Committee during a recent two-day blitz in Bemidji and Grand Rapids. She had one-on-one conversations with new employees and non-members, and did follow-up phone calls and emails afterward.

“You really have to have that face-to-face or telephone contact with someone to get them to join -- it has to be something they can’t ignore. ‘I’m here and you have to pay attention to me!’ is the best way to get members to join,” Kingsland said.

Last week, Kingsland and Local 1501 steward Mike Bates, a forestry specialist with the Department of Natural Resources, traveled more than 200 miles roundtrip to Baudette and were able to persuade four of the five fee payers they met with to sign membership cards.

Elizabeth Wilson, also a forensic scientist with BCA, became a MAPE member when she moved to Bemidji from North Carolina last winter. “I really appreciated the staff benefits the union helped secure, including routine evaluation of my work so I could apply for promotions. In North Carolina, I was getting top marks on my evaluations but didn’t get promoted and was always told, ‘We don’t have the money for that.’

“I took a pretty decent pay cut to take my job with the BCA, but I knew the benefits and opportunities would be better for me in the long run,” Wilson said.

“Whenever people talk about the union and membership, I always share my experience of working in Minnesota and North Carolina, and highlight the value in union membership,” she added.