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Posts by Gary Johnson

Jenny Winklaar: Chasing the Notorious RBG

When it was announced the Trades Women Build Nations Conference was coming to the Twin Cities, Minneapolis Building Trades Director of Marketing & Public Relations Jenny Winklaaar suggested one speaker she thought they should get — the only octogenarian in the United States so renown she has her own hip-hop nickname, the Notorious RBG, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

After submitting a formal request through a national association of lawyers (which went nowhere), Winklaar did her own research and called the United States Supreme Court. She selected the “Clerk of Court” option from the menu. The phone was accidentally answered by someone trying to dial out who hadn’t listened for the dial tone first. Winklaar said, “Hello.” A voice on the other end answered her back: “Hello… Who is this?” Winklaar introduced herself and told The Voice on the other end of the phone she wondered how one could request a Supreme Court justice to speak at an event. “… What?!” The Voice replied.

Winklaar explained a women’s conference was coming to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and they’d like Justice Ginsburg to speak at the event. The Voice put her on hold, but returned two minutes later with another person conferenced into the call. That led to another round on hold with yet a third person joining the conference call who said, “I’d like you to say your name; I’d like you to spell your name, and I’d like to give me the address from which you’re calling.” About that time Winklaar wondered if the FBI wasn’t on their way to detain her.

Eventually she was put through to the assistant to Justice Ginsburg who listened to her request and invited her to submit it via a special email address. Within 48 hours after sending the email, she got a personal response from RBG. With the Supreme Court starting their session, she wrote, she wouldn’t be able to attend in person. In lieu of that, she offered to do a special video address for the opening of the conference.

Looking back, Winklaar thought the women at the event “were really encouraged that RBG took time out of her schedule to encourage them.”

Vicki O’Leary, Chairwoman of North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) Tradeswomen’s Committee, was standing in the back of the room waiting to be introduced as the next speaker when Ginburg’s video played for the crowd. “The young apprentices had tears in their eyes,” O’Leary recalls. “It was incredible to see how young women were made to feel like they had that sort of support.”

 

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Insulators Local 34 September 2019 RibFest

On Saturday September 21st Insulators Local 34 held their annual RibFest.  Young and old alike attended.  The food was exceptional.  There were several Corn Hole Courts (Corn Hole is a bean bag toss game) , music, and several vendors that encouraged socializing after a great meal.  With the huge tent, even the rain was not a factor. 

I was honored to be a judge and had to suffer through sampling all of the ribs entered into the rib contest.  Click the photo gallery below to see some photos of the event.  Thank you Local 34 for your generosity and exceptional hospitality. 

 

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Construct Tomorrow Hits the Bold North

Construct Tomorrow took its show to Northern Minnesota, hosting events in Hinckley at Grand Casino and for two days in Duluth at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Construct Tomorrow hosted nine events, starting in Eveleth in October and ending with one at Minneapolis Cooper High School in early March. The Duluth events hosted 1,000 students from 30 schools and the Hinckley had 700 from 18 schools across that region of Minnesota.

Both venues were filled with demonstration stations where students could experiment with the tools of the different trades. Laying brick, mixing concrete, pounding nails, walking a steel beam, pulling wire with electricians — all hands on experiences allowing them to try their hand at a skilled trade. Students could practice hand-eye skills used in welding and running a backhoe via computer simulations, too. Moreover, they were able to speak directly with a union’s apprenticeship coordinator and educate themselves about the opportunities in the trades. “We tell them how much money we make, how much we put into our benefits and retirement and, basically, give them the facts about this career,” said Andrew Richmond, co-chair for Construct Tomorrow and apprenticeship coordinator for Roofers Local 96.

“Our mission with Construct Tomorrow is to get involved with the students and let them know there are other options than just going to college. They can make really good money in the different trades with benefits and the opportunity to retire someday. Schools are pushing the two or four-year programs to students and they don’t realize school isn’t for everybody,” Richmond explained.

“What’s really awesome is I take students to all kinds of college tours all over the state and this one has generated more excitement and more enthusiasm for my students and their parents than any other event that I had planned for them this year’” said Sarah Larson, academic advisor for the Cass Lake-Bena Schools who brought two van loads full of students to the Construct Tomorrow event in Hinckley. “Most of them are not familiar with the apprenticeship programs, with the training and the different job opportunities that are out there for them and this is hands on. A lot of my students that I brought down are hands on learners. They want to dig in; they want to get dirty; they want to look at the work at the end of the day and say, ‘Man, I made that’ and have that sort of pride.”

Tricia Neubarth, a guidance counselor at Harbor City International School, a charter school in Duluth, said, “I’ve got kids doing postsecondary who really aren’t sure what they want to do. Got kids here who never even touched a hammer and they are doing phenomenal or they’ve been able to walk a four-inch steel beam. It’s a great opportunity, I think, for kids to see what is out there and not just the traditional path I think a lot of people think they need to go.”

The goal of Construct Tomorrow is to attract high school students into apprentice programs and then full-fledged trades workers. The early returns are promising. Checking in at the various booths, Neubarth said she noticed the reactions of some of her students: “… and they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, now I know this is for sure what I want to do!’”

 

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American Contractors and Associates / Ricardo Batres Violated Wage Theft Law

A recent Channel 5 Eyewitness News story highlighted wage theft, employee trafficking, and employee abuse by American Contractors and Associates LLC.  These practices violate the Minnesota Wage Theft Law.  The Wage Theft Law is applicable to publicly funded and privately funded projects.   American Contractors is owned and operated by Ricardo Batres.   

In addition, American Contractors and Associates, LLC has been sighted at least twice in the past with Minnesota Department of Labor violations. Since 2018 Batres has been in violation of the Minnesota Responsible Contractor Law which prohibits his company from working on public projects for a three-year period.  The specific orders from MnDLI can be viewed using the links below.

One has to question why the general contractors and contractors that are hiring subcontractors are not vetting them to see if they are responsible subcontractors?

Click here to see the Channel 5 News Story.

Click here to see the Licensing Order.  Click here to see the Administrative Order. 

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Trades Women – It’s Your Time

What started out as a grass roots gathering in California more than a decade ago has turned into an international event. And it’s coming to Minnesota! The Minneapolis Hilton will host the 9th National Trades Women Build Nations Conference, October 4-6.

The conference begins at 7 a.m. Friday with two days of service volunteer opportunities. One is painting at Ascension Place, a women’s shelter in Minneapolis, and the other is food packing at Second Harvest Heartland, a local food shelf. On Friday evening a welcome reception sponsored by the building trades and Union Bank & Trust runs from 6-9 p.m. at the Hilton with Chase & Ovation, a Prince cover band, performing.

Saturday and Sunday will feature workshops on topics ranging from recruiting, apprenticeships, health and opioid problems, government policy, retirement and financial planning.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women make up 47 percent of the workforce but less than 10 percent in the building trades. The trades offer great career paths and the number of women in the trades are growing. The conference allows women to garner support among each other, develop ideas to recruit more women, and navigate unique on-the-job challenges.

With an estimated attendance of 2,300 at last year’s conference in Seattle, the women’s conference has exceeded the attendance of the North American Building Trades Union’s (NABTU) Legislative Conference, the yearly gathering in Washington, D.C. where congressional leaders mingle with labor leaders. The women’s conference became international in scope when a group of women from Ireland arrived. The conference has even attracted the attention of Teen Vogue magazine.

“The career message is pretty straightforward: This is one industry where the pay is equal among the genders,” said Betsy Barnett, NABTU’s communications director. “The career opportunity is very viable for women.” More volunteers are needed for the conference. Anyone interested can sign up at the official page of the Trades Women Build Nations Conference at the NABTU web site www.nabtu.org/twbn. Or call Jenny Winklaar, director of marketing and public relations, at the Minneapolis Building Trades, at 612-817-2930.

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It’s Not Lady Luck – It’s Hard Work and Perseverance

The Women Building Success awards, created just last year to recognize outstanding women workers in the local building trades, drew a standing-room-only crowd at Surly Brewing in Minneapolis on March 6.  Emceed by Jennifer Gaspersich, financial secretary for IBEW Local 292, winners and an honorable mention were awarded in the following categories:

• Apprentice of the Year: Laura Tracy, IBEW Local 110 (left-most in picture). Honorable mention: Stefany Slaney, Sprinkler Fitters Local 417.

• Journey Worker of the Year: Katie LaPlant, Carpenters Local 322 (middle in the picture). Honorable mention: Veing Paborriboon, Sheet Metal Workers Local 10.

• Advocate of the Year: Tasha Lawrence, Plumbers Local 34 (right-most in the picture). Honorable mention: Wendy Stuhr, Operating Engineers Local 49.

Also on hand to honor the event and promote this year’s upcoming Women Building Nations conference were Bobby Crider, director of operations for the North American Building Trades, and Viki O’Leary, chairwoman of the North American Building Trades Unions Tradeswomen’s Committee.

The 9th Annual Trades Women Build Nations conference will be held Oct. 4-6, 2019, at the Hilton Minneapolis. For the most up-to-date conference information, please visit www.nabtu.org/twbn.

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Minnesota State Prevailing Wage Certifications 2018-2019

Happy New Year  – This is Our Annual Review of Minnesota State Prevailing Wage Basics 

  1. Each year new prevailing wage rates are certified by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (MnDLI).  These are the wages to be paid on state-funded construction projects.
  2. All project contracts for state-funded projects should include prevailing wage rates.
  3. Rates are divided up into three classes of construction: Highway/Heavy, Commercial (Building), and Residential Construction. Residential rates are not published online and need to be requested from MnDLI.
  4. Highway /Heavy and Commercial rates can be checked online by clicking here.
  5. Unlike Federal rates, state rates are broken down by 208 different labor codes.
  6. The prevailing wage rate is the most frequently reported wage in the survey for a labor code.
  7. If a prevailing wage rate is a union rate, it will escalate with changes to the CBA.
  8. All unions are notified by MnDLI in July of each year to submit their updated CBAs.
  9. The current published rates are based on wage surveys submitted for work between April 2, 2017 and June 1, 2018.
  10. Once rates are certified you have 30 days to identify and contact MnDLI with requests for corrections. Email requests are sufficient and can be sent to Karen.Bugar@state.mn.us .
  11. Stay current with all the prevailing wage updates and survey deadlines by subscribing to receive email notifications.  Click here to subscribe to notifications.


Highway/Heavy Wage Rates 2018 – 2019

On November 14, 2018 Highway/Heavy wage rates were newly certified.   Two things unique about Highway/Heavy rates are:

  1. These rates are set for each of Minnesota’s 10 regions.
  2. The minimum project size is $25,000.

There were 19,656 employees reported for the 2018 survey as compared to 19,009 the previous year. The certified rates are based on the most frequently reported wage rates by region. These rates are usually published in late October or November and take effect until the next survey is collected and analyzed and new rates certified the following October or November.

Commercial Wage Rates 2018 – 2019

On December 17, 2018 Commercial wage rates were newly certified. These are certified by county and project size must be at least $2,500. These rates are generally certified in December and stay in effect until the next certification the following December.

This year there were 60,274 employees reported state-wide as compared to 56,023 the previous year.

Summary

  • It’s important to submit surveys in order to get an accurate picture of what is paid in each county or region for each labor code.
  • All interested parties should be familiar with the current wage rates and how to find them.
  • Check our website at fcfmn.org and go to Resources to find many useful Minnesota construction-related websites, including those related to prevailing wage.
  • Call Adam or Gary at 651-797-2726 if you have questions.
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Twin Cities IBEW EWMC Gives Back, 2018

Giving is the hallmark of the Christmas/Holiday Season. Union people don’t wait until Christmas to help their communities though; they do it year-round.

A case in point was the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) International Day of Service 2018 this November. A group of electricians representing the the IBEW’s Electrical Workers Minority Caucus (EWMC) took time on a Sat., Nov. 17, to help out two groups in the Twin Cities.

IBEW Local 110’s Mike Roberts, President of the group’s minority caucus in St. Paul, joined with fellow workers at Conway to not only fix the fixtures but do some painting as well. “I have been blessed. So, for me personally, I think I should give help others out,” Roberts said. Added Chico Marino, the Vice Chair of the Minority Caucus in St. Paul, “The IBEW’s Minority Caucus has been around for 45 years. It’s been a great way for us to become part of the communities where we live.”

In Minneapolis Local 292 installed brand new LED lighting in Little Earth’s gymnasium. “We picked Little Earth because we want to get a recruiting foothold in the Native American community by showing our support for them. We hope we can show them a profitable lifestyle in the trades as a profession is achievable for them,” explained JaCory Shipp, President of Local 292 Minority Caucus. 

“They fixed our gym, which is also our community room. It is the heart of our community at Little Earth. We play basketball in there, hold our Christmas parties in there — everything!” Jolene Jones, President of the Little Earth Residents Association, said. “We needed new lighting in there for a long time. Now, thanks to them, we’ve got it!”

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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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