The Legislature’s Subcommittee on Employee Relations denied interim implementation of MAPE’s and AFSCME’s 2017-19 proposed contracts at a hearing Thursday at the State Office Building in St. Paul.
The subcommittee voted 6-4 to recommend that the Legislature not approve MAPE’s and AFSCME’s contracts. The vote denies interim implementation of the contracts. The two contracts cover approximately 29,000 state employees. MAPE’s 2015-17 contract remains in effect.
MAPE said it will not go back to the bargaining table with its 2017-19 proposed contract. Despite the subcommittee vote, the proposed pacts will be presented to the full Legislature next year for approval.
The subcommittee voted twice, strictly along party lines, with six Republicans voting against the two bargaining agreements and four Democrats voting in favor. The first vote, offered by Rep. Leon Lillie, DFL-North St. Paul, would have approved the contracts. That vote failed. The subcommittee then voted to reject the contracts.
MAPE's 2017-19 contract calls for a 2 percent cost-of-living increase retroactive to July 1 and a 2.25 percent wage increase on July 1, 2018. Step increases are included each year for those who are eligible.
Rep. Marion O'Neill, R-Maple Lake, the subcommittee chair, and Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, grilled Deputy Commissioner Edwin Hudson of Minnesota Management and Budget about fiscal issues and wage increases.
Hudson was asked if the Legislature had appropriated adequate funds to cover the wage increases. Hudson said agencies were directed to allow for a 1 percent increase in their budgets, he then pointed to "significant" savings with lower health-care premiums that will cover the rest of the cost.
Benson objected to using the health-care savings to pay for wage increases.
"We made a very informed decision and we believe these contracts are affordable," Hudson said. "Having competitive wages goes a long way to making Minnesota an employer of choice."
“We need to be fiscally responsible,” O’Neill said.
Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, pointed out that O’Neill filed a lawsuit against House Republican leadership earlier this year to get a legislative pay raise of 45 percent. The raise had been set by a constitutionally mandated salary council.
“I believe that this absolutely, absolutely is a valid contract that should have been approved by this body,” Hilstrom said. “I think it’s shameful what’s being done today.”
Sen. Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, chided the legislative majority for the direction of the discussion. "Our role is not to micro-manage," he said. He pointed out that negotiations are carried out by the executive branch in good faith. "These are the people who do the work."
Nearly 98 percent of MAPE’s members voted in August to approve the 2017-19 proposed agreement. Covering nearly 14,500 MAPE employees, the proposed agreement also includes lower-than-expected health care costs and an improved dental program. The new contract includes up to six weeks of paid parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child for eligible state employees.
Adapted from an article on the MAPE website.