Home February-March 2023 Mahtomedi ESPs bargain equitable health insurance contributions, wage increases

Mahtomedi ESPs bargain equitable health insurance contributions, wage increases

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It was because of all of us that we
showed the district how strong we
are when we work together in union.

Beth Ketzner, Mahtomedi Paraprofessionals
Education Minnesota local union president

Members of the Mahtomedi Paraprofessionals-Education Minnesota local union worked hard to win major wage and benefit increases in their latest contract.

Their contract wins included a $1.25 increase in each year, for a total of $2.50 increase in salary per hour, as well as a 100 percent contribution for single health insurance and 85 percent for family insurance.

“Honestly, I never thought I would see the day that they would get equitable contributions to health insurance that match all other district employee groups,” said Beth Ketzner, local union president. “This just goes to show how important a union is, and in unity there is strength, and how much stronger we are when we work together and have a collective voice.”

Ketzner said that the idea of a collective voice was a major focus of the union’s member organizing during this bargaining round.

“Before we began, we selected a small committee of workers to represent the majority, who conducted a survey to understand the interests and concerns of all the MESP members,” she said. “Based on the survey results, the negotiations team identified top issues which were used to form goals and put together a contract proposal, as well as an organizing plan.”

The open communication started at the beginning of bargaining was carried throughout the negotiations process.

“We kept an open dialogue and kept the members informed with email updates with what was happening throughout the year it took to come to an agreement,” said Ketzner. “We were more open with what our goals were by letting the members know exactly what we were asking for. In the past what was being bargained for was held to more secrecy.”

The Mahtomedi ESPs also went to school board meetings and spoke to the board directly.

“We expressed our concerns and issues and asked the board school to expand the parameters of bargaining, giving district negotiators the green light to negotiate a contract that respects, honors and values our work,” said Ketzner. “We had a good showing of MESP support at the meeting.”

The ESPs worked with their union field staff and organizer on a member engagement and organizing plan. A big piece was having members sign an online petition of support, which Ketzner and the negotiations team emailed to all the school board members and district negotiators.

“We had 58 members of our union sign the petition,” said Ketzner. “I feel the petition was a huge success as it showed the district that we had all of our people behind us.”

Ketzner is hopeful that the tactics and unity shown by the Mahtomedi ESPs in this last round of bargaining will be carried forward into future work and contracts.

“The support of Education Minnesota staff helped make what seemed impossible happen,” she said. “But it was because of all of us that we showed the district how strong we are when we work together in union.”

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