Michigan Association of Public Employees

By Jennifer Gomori, MAPE Editor

Redford Township Technical Workers Local Union President Kevin Bartel doesn’t back down when he’s representing his unit members, but he understands the key to resolving issues with management is professionalism.

“Kevin has done an excellent job with continuing to move his Unit forward,” said MAPE Labor Relations Specialist Jerald James. “He is very attentive to the needs of the Unit while ensuring compliance with the CBA, local bylaws, and labor law.”

Photo by Jerald James, MAPE Labor Specialist                        Redford Township Technical Workers Local Union President Kevin Bartel was awarded the 2022 Richard C. Heins Outstanding Leadership Award.

Bartel received the 2022 Richard C. Heins Outstanding Leadership Award. James nominated Bartel for the honor, which is bestowed annually on a MAP, MAPE or MAFF Local Union Steward who exemplifies leadership qualities in advocating for their members. The Award is named for former MAP Executive Board President and Labor Relations Specialist Richard C. Heins, who passed away in 2019.

“I honestly am very touched,” Bartel said of receiving the Heins Outstanding Leadership Award. “I can’t believe that I did get it to tell you the truth. Really I just wanted to thank my board because without them I wouldn’t get this award and thank all the MAPE staff for their help. Every time I call, you come running. It’s a great feeling to know you have all these people behind you like that.”

James expressed his sincere appreciation of all Local Union Stewards at the MAP 38th Annual Holiday Open House Dec. 9, 2022 for doing a “tough job” without any extra pay. He outlined the additional challenges with an outgoing labor representative and potentially three Unfair Labor Practices when Bartel entered the picture.

“The entire team have been able to resurrect relationships with the Employer,” James said. “Kevin navigated a unique contract and was able to do it with a lot of internal issues going on.”

Bartel has been with the Township five years, three of which he has served on the Local Board as Vice President and President. The 34-year-old Township Mechanic decided to become more involved in the Union as some of the older Local Board members began retiring.

“The younger people are more the future of Redford Township. We needed to have a voice as well,” Bartel said. “When I first started at the Township, part of the contract was definitely geared toward the older people that are there. We (newer members) were paying more toward our pension and retiree healthcare than anyone else in prior years. All the new people got stuck with it and all the older people didn’t get stuck with it. That didn’t seem very unified that everyone else didn’t have to pay for it and we had to.”

Bartel said having younger Local Board members was key to retaining newer Employees. “All the board members had 25-plus years in and they were getting ready to retire themselves so why would you hurt what you have,” he said. “It felt like we weren’t getting our voices heard by the board. It just seemed like even when you went to the meeting and asked questions no one even wanted to acknowledge the new people. We had lost eight or nine people to retirements and how can you keep these guys here and wanting to work if the contract is that different for new people?”

Bartel has made substantial headway settling matters without outside intervention. “Everything can be figured out and everything has a solution,” he said. “I just try to solve it all in-house between management and the Union before it goes any further.”

“He advocates for his members and the Local as a whole. Kevin’s consistency with enforcing the rights of his membership has gotten multiple issues resolved, prior to grievances being filed,” James said. “He has fought diligently with the Administration to ensure his members are protected. He has done so all while maintaining his professionalism and representing not only his membership but MAPE as well.”

“At the end of the day you still have to go to work with these people and they’re going to see it differently than you see it,” Bartel said. “There are other battles to fight. Something else is going to come up and maybe they’ll side with you that time.”

In September, he took his Union involvement to the next level when he was elected MAPE Executive Board Treasurer. “I was very curious about the board. I didn’t really understand what the point of the board was,” Bartel said. But it was not long after he was elected that he found out.

“Somebody had appealed a grievance that was denied by the MAPE Grievance Committee,” Bartel said. “We had a Zoom meeting and read through everything and made a decision at the end of it as to whether we agreed with the committee’s decision or not, like an appeals board. (The member) didn’t agree with the judgment they received, and we, as a board, have a chance to overturn that if we feel the grievance is deserving of litigation or whatever else has to happen after that.”

Bartel is looking forward to making a difference for all Union members and said addressing the problems caused by Right to Work is at the top of his list.

“We’ve talked about how many times people who don’t pay Union dues shouldn’t be part of the Local,” he said. “For me, that’s the number one thing that needs to be addressed. Our dues are not expensive, but that’s the thing that’s got a lot of people thinking, ‘I’ll save that money because they still have to give me the same amount of representation.’ It never fails, as far as our Local goes, it seems like the non-dues paying members are always the ones that need the help.”