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Tribal Nations & Minnesota Building Trades Partner to Develop Apprenticeship Readiness

Over the last year, six Tribal Nations and the Minnesota Building Trades have piloted a new apprenticeship readiness program to prepare tribal members to enter the union construction industry. The first class of 15 students graduated on June 15, 2018 and many have already been accepted into full-fledged apprenticeship programs.

This 12-week course introduces students to the work of 11 different construction trades, including carpentry, sheet metal, electrical, general construction labor, plumbing & pipefitting, roofing, masonry, bricklaying, heavy equipment operation, and ironwork. Students welcomed the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with multiple crafts, allowing them to explore and find the trade best suited to their interests.

The program also incorporated tribal customs and cultural learning appropriate for the tribes involved, which included: the White Earth, Leech Lake, Bois Forte, Fond du Lac, and Mille Lacs Annishinabe reservations and the Upper Sioux Dakota community. The program hired to Five Skies, LLC out of Black RiverFalls, Wisconsin, to serve the role of understanding each tribal partner’s needs.

Other partners include the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development, which provided grant funding, private contractor donations, and in-kind donations from the Building Trades unions.

While this first class was a pilot program, everyone involved is optimistic about the future of the program.  Click here to read more about this program.

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A Concrete Christmas at the Local 633 Apprenticeship School

New Brighton, Minn. (Dec. 1, 2018) — It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas — especially at the Local 633 JATC (Joint Apprenticeship Training Center) where future cement masons and plasterers are honing their skills in New Brighton. For the seventh consecutive year, the apprentices of Cement Masons, Plasterers & Shophands Local 633 have built a Christmas exhibit replicating areas of a small city in their warehouse-sized work area . Last year’s exhibit featured an ice skating rink and a gigantic statue of the Stanley Cup in one corner along with a replica of the Vince Lombardi Trophy in the other to salute Super Bowl LII — all done with colored concrete. This year’s exhibit features a small house built by the plasterers of Local 265, a mini golf course and a roundabout built by the cements masons of Local 633. All of the structures are tinted and toned with the colors and shades of the Holiday Season.

Not only does the exhibit show the artistic nature of what can be done with concrete and plaster, but it has an educational function as well. The apprentices get practical hands on training by doing it. “We are trying to replicate everything MnDOT will prescribe as paving work you’d see in the metro area such as the four types of curbs — B curb, D curb, S curb and V curb — plus the water drains. This year we decided to put a golf putting green in the B curb!” explained Brian Farmer, Apprenticeship Coordinator of Local 633 Journeyman and Apprentice JATC Training Center. “Everything we are doing here has a real world application.”

The exhibit will be open to the public for two days, Monday Dec. 3 and Tuesday Dec. 4, from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Anyone who wants to come is asked to bring or drop-off a non-perishable food item (such as canned soup and vegetables, pasta, etc.) for Food Group, a local food shelf, from New Hope.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE RELATED VIDEO

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Ironworkers and the Bentleyville Christmas Tree

Volunteer Ironworkers from Local 512 Set Up Bentleyville Christmas Tree in Duluth

On Saturday, October 13, 2018, volunteers from Iron Workers Local 512 participated in setting up the iron frame for the 128-foot tall Bentleyville Christmas tree in Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park. Since 2010, volunteers from Local 512 have erected and taken down the massive Christmas tree – the dazzling centerpiece of the Bentleyville “Tour of Lights” holiday event.

The Christmas tree is not only assembled by volunteers from Local 512 – a process that involves moving three separate forty-foot long sections a quarter of a mile to Bayfront Park – it was also fabricated by volunteers from Local 512. In August of 2010, Nathan Bentley, Founder and Executive Director of Bentleyville, asked members of Local 512 if they could help in crafting an iron-framed Christmas tree for Bentleyville. “We were initially told that the tree would be only 12 feet high,” said Brian Nelson, Apprentice Coordinator for Iron Workers #512 JAC. Soon thereafter, however, Local 512 learned that the tree would actually be ten times taller and would need to be completed by mid-October in order to be installed on time. Despite this tall order, Apprentices, Journeymen, and Retirees all came together to work on the fabrication of the tree. By mid-October of 2010 the large iron structure was completed, installed, and ready to awe visitors.

Since 2010, over 100 members of Local 512 have volunteered in helping to set up and take down the temporary Christmas tree. “Every year, as early as June or July, we get a lot of members asking about the tree and wanting to be a part of the team that sets it up and takes it down,” said Nelson. The spirit of volunteerism, generosity, and community engagement at Local 512, however, extends all year-round beyond just the holiday season. “We have built bike racks for the city of Superior; canoe and kayak racks for Duluth and Superior – we’re always doing as much volunteer work as we can,” said Nelson. With the installation of this year’s Bentleyville Christmas tree already complete, members of Local 512 have shown yet again their commitment to community service.

This year’s 15th Annual Bentleyville “Tour of Lights” event runs from November 17th until December 26th at Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park. For event information, including hours of operation and parking, visit www.bentleyvilleusa.org.

Use the gallery below to view pictures of the Bentleyville tree being setup.

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An Examination of Minnesota’s Prevailing Wage Law

This is a prevailing wage study completed in May 2018 that examines the effects of Minnesota’s Prevailing Wage Law on costs, training, and economic development.  The study was authored by Frank Manzo IV, M.P.P. from the Midwest Economic Policy Institute and Kevin Duncan, Ph.D, BCG Economics, LLC and Professor of Economics, Colorado State University-Pueblo

Click here to read the complete study.

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Missouri Voters Defeat Right To Work Proposition

Missouri Voters Defeat RTW

On Tuesday, August 7, voters in Missouri went to the polls to vote in the state’s primary for November’s election. On the ballot was a referendum on whether Missouri should become the next ‘right-to-work’ state, known as Prop A.

The legislature initially approved the law in February 2017, but labor unions collected more than 310,000 petition signatures, which forced the law to be decided by popular referendum. At the close of the 2018 session, the legislature changed the referendum date from the November election to the August primary, in an attempt to stifle voter turnout, which tends to be smaller for primaries.

Nevertheless, Missouri voters ultimately opposed the law by a more than 2-to-1 margin, preventing ‘right-to-work’ from taking effect. According to the St. Louis Dispatch, voters in both urban and rural areas opposed Prop A, with only 14 of 114 counties voting in favor. Missourians previously rejected ‘right-to-work’ in 1978, with 60% of voters opposing the law at that time.

However, the successful rejection of ‘right-to-work’ in Missouri did not come without cost. Three campaign funds that supported Prop A raised nearly $6 million, while labor unions and affiliated organizations raised more than $16 million to oppose the law. The opposing campaigns drew national attention, including a viral radio ad by actor John Goodman, a Missouri native and union member.

Nonetheless, with the Missouri legislature still firmly in Republican control, it is possible the battle over ‘right-to-work’ is not over, but simply on hold until the next legislative session.

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Another One Bites the Dust In Michigan

Michigan Repeals Prevailing Wage

On June 6, Michigan became the 6th state in the last three years to repeal its Prevailing Wage law. The repeal was originated and pushed by the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC). It began as a citizen-driven petition that required 250,000 signatures to send the repeal bill to the state legislature. The citizen petition process bypasses the governor, and can be decided either by the Legislature or the Legislature can choose to send the proposal to voters directly. In this case, the Legislature chose to pass the repeal itself. Several people tried to save the law, including every Democratic legislator and several Republican lawmakers. But they didn’t have enough votes.

Prevailing Wage prevents erosion of construction industry standards by requiring contractors on public construction projects to pay standard wages and benefits for the geographic area. These laws originated in the 1890s to foster development of state construction industries and enjoyed bipartisan support for decades, with 41 states and the federal government implementing Prevailing Wage by the 1970s.

Proponents of repeal claim it will save the state hundreds of millions of dollars every year. The savings are expected to come directly from the wages of the construction workers who currently earn Michigan’s prevailing wages. These wage victims are the non-union construction workers who usually work for… you guessed it, Contractors in the ABC.

Opponents of repeal say that it will erode safety and training standards and hurt the construction industry’s ability to attract and retain skilled workers.

Evidence, Not Ideology

When deciding matters of public policy, information matters. However, the evidence presented by opposing sides on an issue like Prevailing Wage is often treated as equally valid by the media, even if there are significant methodological and analytical differences.

In this case, the information cited by Protecting Michigan Taxpayers—the ballot committee that gathered signatures for repeal—was a 2013 study by the Anderson Economic Group,  which found that Michigan overspent on education construction by $224 million per year from 2002-11. However, a report by Peter Philips, Professor of Economics at the University of Utah, found serious flaws with the Anderson Group study, including miscalculating the proportion of project costs taken up by blue-collar labor, and failing to account for decreases in worker productivity associated with falling wages and benefits. Prof. Phillips then applied the Anderson Group’s own methodology to more correct information and found that Prevailing Wage repeal would not have any cost savings.

Recent evidence from Prevailing Wage repeals in West Virginia (2015) and Indiana (2015) find no cost savings associated with repeal. In fact, the only real consequences of repeal have been significant declines in construction worker wages and benefits, increasing numbers of out-of-state contractors doing taxpayer-funded construction, and decreasing the quality of construction.

Prevailing Wage is Good for Minnesota Taxpayers

At its core, Prevailing Wage is a matter of public policy. It affects the health and vitality of a critical sector of the economy and prevents destabilization of the construction market by big infusions of government spending. While there are conflicting narratives about the impact of Prevailing Wage, the preponderance of peer-reviewed and methodologically rigorous research lead to an inescapable conclusion: Prevailing Wage is good for taxpayers. It does not affect overall project costs, and in fact has many positive consequences, including increased worker training and productivity, decreased reliance on public assistance programs among construction workers, and economic stimulus resulting from public construction wages staying within communities.

When spending taxpayer dollars on construction, we should demand that they maximize the benefits to communities, and Prevailing Wage ensures that happens.

 

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