Pictured: (Left) Pictured: Tom Simonet, Chairperson, Minnesota Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve; (right) Joe Fowler, President, Minnesota State Building & Construction Trades Council.
The Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council held an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves (ESGR) signing ceremony Thursday, Feb. 24, at the IUPAT Training Center in Little Canada. This is the first official step in the union building trades becoming a Yellow Ribbon Company which formally recognizes an organization’s support of service members, veterans, and military families. This statement of support exemplifies the commitment of the union trades to proactively support veterans, service members and their families.
A Yellow Ribbon Company honors and embraces those affected by military deployments. The outward showing of support enables a successful transition into the workplace for U.S. armed forces members and creates support systems for employees affected by military deployments.
Speakers at the event included Joe Fowler, President of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades; Major General Shawn Manke, head of the Minnesota National Guard; Roslyn Robertson, Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry; Bill Mulcrone, Midwest Regional Director of Helmets to Hardhats; and Tom Simonet, chair of the Minnesota Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve.
The Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council voted to become a Yellow Ribbon Company at their 2021 annual convention, where they resolved to establish a steering committee and to make a meaningful difference as a Yellow Ribbon organization. The Building Trades is on track to earn the Yellow Ribbon Company designation at their annual convention in July 2022.
When Saint Paul Building Trades Construction Council Executive Secretary Don Mullin was standing out on the street motioning cars to come into the IBEW 110 food give away, a woman pulled up to ask him, “Are you really giving away free food?” When Mullin answered in the affirmative, she thanked him and told him her prayers had just been answered on her drive home. “I didn’t know how I was going to feed my family tonight.”
This past winter members of the Minnesota Building Trades put their feet and backs into helping distribute food to struggling people in their communities as part of Round 5 of the Farmers to Families Food Box program, a nationwide Coronavirus Food Assistance Program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“The need is great all over,” said Saint Paul Labor Studies and Resource Center’s Erica Dalager-Reed. “You have one in six people in Minnesota living with food insecurities. The need was there before COVID. The need is even greater now.”
The St. Paul Regional Labor Federation under the Labor Studies and Resource Center became a broker of food for the state of Minnesota. Through this arrangement with the USDA, the unions received food deliveries and they proved particularly qualified to distribute it. While food shelves consist mostly of non-perishable pantry items, these food stuffs contain perishable foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and meat and dairy products. Food trucks arrived on site carrying 40,000 lbs. of food separated into 23 palettes with 70 boxes on each palette. The trade unions provided the equipment to move the food, the manpower required for the heavy lifting, and the space to house the food for pick up. Precautions had to be taken for COVID, so contactless pick ups were done.
Both current and retired union members from across the building trades participated in 22 events just in March alone. The program expires early this spring; there’s hope Congress will extend it again.
Barry Davies, financial secretary/treasurer of Iron Workers Local 512, said, “Helping out was a natural for us. We feel very fortunate because we have worked all year. It’s a chance for us to give back to the community.”
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!”