When Lina Jamoul takes over officially as MAPE’s new executive director on Nov. 13, it will be a new role for her. However, Jamoul will not be new to MAPE members.
Jamoul has been the union's director of Member Engagement, Development and Organizing since January 2014. She has led MAPE’s organizing work, and has led our efforts to build power, make our locals stronger and grow our membership.
Under Jamoul’s leadership, the number of bargaining unit employees welcomed each year into MAPE’s membership has doubled, from 700 four years ago to 1,400 this year.
“I’m excited, humbled and honored to be stepping into this new role,” Jamoul said. “I believe in MAPE and the amazing things we can do together.”
As MAPE and the entire labor movement face turbulent times, Jamoul has a challenge for all MAPE bargaining unit employees.
Good ideas come from everywhere, she pointed out. “In this next year, we’re going to need everyone,” Jamoul said. “I want to invite those who are fee payers to become members. I’m also asking those who are members to become more active and those who are active to provide stronger leadership that unites us.
“Our members are looking for ways to have a positive impact. Building MAPE is the best way of having a positive influence during these challenging times.”
Jamoul singled out three challenges that MAPE faces in the next year.
First, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear and likely rule in favor of a case (Janus v. AFSCME) that seeks to undercut the financial resources of the labor movement. Currently in Minnesota, if you choose not to be a union member, you still must pay your “fair share” for the work the union does to represent you, including negotiations for better salaries, benefits and working conditions. The case is bankrolled by the same billionaires and corporate CEOs who worked to pass anti-union legislation in many states.
“I believe wholeheartedly and strongly that MAPE members will stick together to have a collective voice,” Jamoul said. She believes that MAPE will emerge from this test as a stronger union.
From its inception, MAPE has been a collective voice for the unique needs and interests of professionals working for state government. MAPE’s professional bargaining unit has faced hurdles before, but this union has repeatedly stood up to those challenges.
Winning legislative approval of MAPE’s 2017-19 contract is the second challenge Jamoul sees on the horizon. The legislative Subcommittee on Employee Relations recommended in early October that the Legislature reject MAPE’s and AFSCME Council 5’s proposed contracts during next year’s legislative session.
Jamoul called cost-based arguments legislators put forth as a “smokescreen” for their true intentions to reduce or eliminate state government services. “It’s not about money. For the subcommittee not to recommend approval of our contract is a sign of disrespect and a lack of recognition of the collective bargaining process.”
MAPE’s proposed contract was negotiated in good faith between our negotiators and the governor’s team. The two sides reached a tentative agreement after months of face-to-face negotiations. The tentative agreement was overwhelmingly ratified by MAPE’s membership.
MAPE’s contract calls for modest wage increases of 2 percent this year and 2.25 percent next year. This compares to a 3 percent average wage increase in the past year for private sector workers in the Twin Cities, according to an Oct. 13 Star Tribune editorial. The editorial pointed out that if state workers are denied these modest wage increases, it may make it more difficult to attract and retain state government workers.
Step increases will also be available for qualified employees.
“It’s a fair and modest contract,” Jamoul said. “Yet, the legislative subcommittee decided not to recommend approval of our contract.”
Jamoul came to MAPE favoring action events. She has led action events that have blossomed from 250 attendees to the May 17th event that attracted more than 1,100 members to one of MAPE’s largest-ever rallies. The mid-May event packed a downtown St. Paul hotel as a boisterous crowd of members rallied for a fair contract and a good budget for their state agencies.
“I intend to build on that bias toward action,” she said. “And, intensify it toward passing our contract at the Legislature.” She encourages members to stay tuned to our website and our newsletter, and attend their local meetings for more information on events geared toward getting our 2017-19 contract approved.
MAPE led efforts to implement paid parental leave for our members and all state workers. MAPE’s action events resulted in the approval of a memorandum of understanding implementing six weeks of paid parental leave. The benefit was written into our 2017-19 contract.
The third challenge is to elect a labor friendly governor to replace the retiring Governor Mark Dayton.
“We have to ask all candidates to make a commitment to quality public services and tell us whether they believe working people should have the right to come together to have a collective voice,” Jamoul said. “Tell us, if they are elected governor, will they respect that voice?
“It’s on us now to ask the candidates to make that commitment so our members know where they stand.”
Jamoul moved to this country from London with her husband. Jamoul has almost 20 years of experience as a non-profit, community and labor leader. She has worked as an organizer and an advocate, producing results from millions of dollars for affordable housing in Illinois to the first Living Wage Olympics in London, and more recently paid parental leave for state workers in Minnesota.
Jamoul was born in Syria, and grew up in Syria, Cyprus and London. Her parents tried to organize for justice and democracy in the late 1970s in Syria, and eventually had to leave the country because of their political work. The value of bringing people together to have a collective, democratic voice and keep those in power accountable is deeply rooted in Jamoul’s family history. She came to this country for the first time in 2004 to do research for her doctorate.
This article is reprinted from the MAPE website.