Minnesota government has a new budget in place, but it's still trying to wrap up the latest two-year contracts for state employees.

After a year in which workers helped agencies and residents through the pandemic, unions are pressing for what they call transformative changes. Negotiations could wrap up sometime this week.

Amid those talks, state workers represented by unions rallied at the state Capitol Wednesday.

Megan Dayton, statewide president of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), said they are still fighting for telework opportunities.

"Not just because it helps keep our workforce safe and supported, but because it keeps the cost of public service down," Dayton asserted.

The Minnesota Office of Management and Budget would not comment on specific provisions, but said the work state employees do makes Minnesota a great place to live.

According to MAPE negotiators, state officials indicated that now is not the time for a long-term commitment on telework. Other union members pressed for contract language that establishes equity, diversity and inclusion.

Rhianon Sargent, program specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education and a MAPE member, told the crowd there was pushback over specific proposals concerning equity and diversity. She argued state leaders need to follow up on previous pledges in this area. 

"We need MMB and the governor's team to show that they are truly committed to what they have stated as EDI priorities," Sargent urged.

Minnesota government employs more than 30,000 people in 78 agencies. More than 15,000 of those workers are represented by MAPE.

The union also continues to press the state to address what it calls the misuse of temporary unclassified positions. MAPE emphasized it leads to high turnover and low morale, while disproportionately affecting BIPOC workers.