By Jennifer Gomori, MAPE Editor

Jeff Heston has served his local union almost since the beginning his employment with the City of Jackson, so the transition to becoming MAPE Executive Board President in October 2018 seemed fitting.

Heston, 52, began working at the City of Jackson in October 1994. In 1995, Heston stepped up and became a Local Union Steward after a former Water Department Steward transferred to another department. “I like to be involved. I said, “I’ll do it,’” Heston said. “I’ve been involved with the Union for quite a while.”

Heston is now President of the local MAPE Jackson Public Employees Union. He took on both Union President positions after former MAPE Local and Executive Board President Rusty Holdridge announced his pending retirement in 2017. Holdridge officially retired from the City of Jackson in February 2019.

“When (Holdridge) stepped down, the Union approached me,” said Heston, Maintenance Supervisor of the Clean Water Plant. “I like the organization and I like helping out.”

Heston served as Local MAPE Union Vice President for five years prior to that and grew up in a Union home. His dad worked for Ford Motor Company for 40 years. “My family have been involved with the big three,” Heston said. “Growing up in Detroit, everyone knows about the unions.”

Heston, who served in the Navy from 1985 to 1991 as a Machinist Mate, has been a Union Employee for over two decades. One of his main goals as MAPE Executive Board President is to expand membership. “Through our good representation and good word of mouth from other locals, I’m hoping we can bring some people in that aren’t unionized now or bring others (from competing unions) over to our union,” he said.

MAPE has been an integral part of providing a good workplace environment for City of Jackson workers. “With the representation and with the contract negotiations, we’ve been able to maintain a lot of the benefits other unions haven’t maintained throughout the years. It’s been good working with (MAPE Executive Director) Fred (Timpner) and his team. They work with us to achieve our goals.”

The former union, United Steel Workers, was not addressing Jackson Employees concerns, he said. “They kind of used us for a strike fund for their other more important groups,” Heston said.

Heston will work to change the negative perceptions people have about Unions. “The rhetoric now coming from the legislature is that we’re the enemy against the workforce. We’re not the enemy,” Heston said. “We’re here to make sure the guy working on the line isn’t stepped on and thrown to the curb. Right now, they’d just assume fire you as soon as look at you.”

The goal of MAPE is to maintain a good middle-class quality of life in the workforce, he said. “I think MAPE can be a part of that moving forward,” Heston said. “This last legislature, with the Republican control of the House and Senate, shoved a lot of things down the unions’ throats with Right to Work and health care. There’s a large anti-union sentiment out there. Right to Work in my opinion is union busting. Hopefully, we can get to a more even playing field as far as the legislature goes.”

Under Right to Work, Unions are required to provide non-dues paying Employees some representation even though the Unions are receiving no financial support from those Employees. “It’s okay with me if a person doesn’t want to pay dues, but the Union shouldn’t have to provide representation to them or other contractual benefits. But, as of now, the law says that we have to,” Heston said.

Reduced public employee health care benefits is another issue Heston said needs to be addressed by legislators with Union input now that Democrats have regained control of the House.

“Hopefully with the new legislature, we can reverse some of that,” Heston said.