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Up-to-date information from SEMNBCT

semnbtc news Why Prevailing Wage is Fiscally Responsible

When I stand dumbly in front of the wall of ketchup options at the local supermarket, the principles that guide my decision are fairly straightforward. I buy the item that offers the greatest utility per dollar—that is to say, the option with the most value. However, when it’s your money and my money (and the money of everybody we know) being spent, the decision becomes more complicated. How can we make sure we are all getting the best value for the taxes we pay?

The answer (at least in the area of public works) is addressed via Competitive Bidding Requirements. These statutes dictate any project even partially funded by tax dollars be awarded to the “lowest responsible bidder”. These requirements were created to cut down on costs, corruption, and get the most out of every tax dollar spent. But that’s not the whole story of how these requirements affect taxpayers.

Tim Watkins, Education & Policy Coordinator at Fair Contracting Foundation of MN, spoke to me about the drawbacks of Competitive Bidding Requirements and the downward spiral they create. All too often, this style of bidding results in the contending firms lowering their labor standards—which consequently affects the final product & efficiency of construction.

“If you have that race to the bottom, you’re not ultimately going to get the best value for publicly funded construction. Good value is important because when you’re building a 50 year bridge, you don’t want to have to fix it in 20 years,” Tim explained.

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semnbtc news Unionized Construction Workers in Minnesota Get Back $5.59 for Every Dollar Paid in Dues

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Photo Credit: Flickr

In Minnesota, construction workers are productive, high-skilled, and well-paid. Over 30 percent of these workers are members of a union. To maintain and increase membership, trade unions in Minnesota must continually demonstrate how workers benefit from contributing dues.

An analysis by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute (MEPI), The Impact of Construction Dues in Minnesota: An Organizational and Individual-Level Analysis [PDF], finds that construction unions in Minnesota offer many positive benefits to members:

  • Union membership increases the after-tax income of construction workers by $7,720 annually;
  • Unions increase construction worker health insurance coverage by 13.1 percentage points;
  • Minnesota's construction unions spend 75.5 percent of dues and fees on bargaining and representation;
  • Only 1.4 percent of all membership dues and fees collected by construction unions in Minnesota are spent on political activities and lobbying – or $17.47 annually per member; and
  • For every $1 paid in dues and fees, an estimated $5.59 is returned to members in the construction industry in after-tax income.
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Construction trade unions do not only support members, however. Construction unions also impact the broader Minnesota labor market. Results from an economic impact analysis show:

  • Unionized construction workers independently create over 9,000 additional jobs that would not exist in Minnesota without unionization – including over 1,300 direct jobs in labor organizations and almost 8,000 other jobs from the higher earnings and consumer spending of union households.
  • The net impacts of unionized construction workers are an $808.6 million increase in Minnesota's economic output and $99.5 million more in state income tax revenue than there would be without unionization.
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At an annual cost of $1,381, union dues and fees increase wages by $7,720 after taxes – a $5.59 personal benefit per dollar invested. Membership also increases the likelihood that a construction worker has health insurance coverage, reduces construction worker poverty, and provides workers with a voice at work. Finally, union dues stimulate the broader Minnesota economy.

Any attempt to weaken trade unions in Minnesota, if successful, would reduce these positive impacts that unionized construction workers have on the state.


Rochester Students Learn Life Lessons from Kids Build Workshop

Source: Marissa Collins,
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(ABC 6 News) -- Students at Folwell Elementary School in Rochester were getting some hands-on learning outside of the classroom Tuesday.

There may be some sore fingers, but all of the smiles and laughter made the pain worth it.

"The kids look at you and ask you if that hurt, you know they even ask you are you immune to the pain? You just tell them no we're not, but you know what, let's have fun and build some projects," said Dominic Andrist, a business representative for North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters.

The North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters partnered with Folwell Elementary and local contractors to bring "kids build workshop" to students. Nearly 400 students were able to not only bring a toolbox home, but actually use the tools to build one.

"The children are happy and excited and just it's a beautiful thing to see," said Folwell Elementary Principal Wendy Moritz.

"They're having a ball, I mean we were doing from kindergarten all the way up to 5th grade and the kids are just loving it, you know. They're laughing, they're giggling, they're intense into what they're doing, and they're just having a great time," said Andrist.

Fourteen different contractors and over 30 volunteers helped students have a fun building experience, but some students also learned life lessons.

"It's amazing; you can't really measure the smiles. There's a little frustration when that nail gets bent, but that's some good grit to kind of push through that and try something new and learns," said Moritz.

Despite the sore fingers after all the work, the kids were able to bring home confidence and a great learning experience.

"We are just enjoying our time here with the students, having them become familiar with working with the basic hand tools and hammer, and just enjoying watching them put things together with their own hands," said Matt Price, an instructor for North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters.

Each child received a certificate for completing their projects, and all of the materials were supplied by local contractors.

"Kids Build" with the help of area carpenters

Source: DeeDee Stiepan,
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ROCHESTER, Minn. – Elementary students at Folwell in Rochester got to learn from the best on Tuesday afternoon as they built wood toolboxes with area carpenters.

The North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters Local 1382 worked with 390 K-5th graders. Each month, the carpenters union hosts "Kids Build" workshops at their training center, but this is the first time they taken the workshop into an area school.

"A lot of them have never built anything, swung a hammer so, just letting them know that there's other stuff out there for them to do," says James Hendricks with the union. "Arts and crafts is another hobby that they could do outside of other sports and stuff that they already do."

"It's for the community," explains Dominic Andrist, a business representative with the union. "It's a great project and a great process for them to learn and understand what we do, and maybe it's something they'll want to do in the future."

The workshop was such a success, they hope to continue to work with local schools to do more of these outreach events.

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semnbtc newsGrowing Rochester With Skilled Union Labor

As Rochester continues to expand with the direction of the Destination Medical Center efforts, construction around the city is intensifying to keep pace with traffic, parking, utility, and building needs.

One new project underway, after years of discussion, is the 55th Street bridge, which will provide a vital east-west connection between US HWY 52 and Broadway Avenue North. The goal of the expansion is to accommodate existing traffic and account for anticipated future residential and commercial growth in northwest and northeast Rochester.

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The bridge work is being led by Minnowa Construction, and includes a number of skilled workers including ironworkers, carpenters, laborers, pile drivers, and operators. By using skilled, union workers, Minnowa Construction knows the project will be done with pride and professionalism.

Work on the bridge includes two abutments with approximately 130,000 pounds of reinforcing bar with 1450 yards of concrete each and piers with 184,000 pounds of reinforcing and 1650 yards of concrete. Once finished, congestion in the area will see needed relief while the highway will have improved safety and mobility.

Donavan Carpenter, an IronWorker and area resident, is working on the project and is excited to see the difference it will make in the community, "Everyone in the IronWorkers Local #512 is excited about the DMC expansion and what it means for our community. A lot of us grew up in or around Rochester, and it means a lot to be a part of this project."

To keep pace with Rochester's growth and assure our community's investment pays dividends, it is important that the work be done accurately and safely with as little disruption to current residents as possible. " The use of skilled union labor on this and other projects assures the final product will last for decades to come; it'll be really great to see our city rises up around it," says Carpenter.

semnbtc newsCity Officials Break Ground on Mayo Civic Center Expansion

Source: Cassie Hart,
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The Mayo Civic Center expansion took a big step forward Thursday afternoon.

Rochester city officials broke ground on the $85 million project, with the center scheduled to open in mid-2017.

Rochester wants to use the new center to attract bigger groups.

City officials say expanding the Mayo Civic Center will:

  • Increase the area economic impact by $372 million over 10 years.
  • Increase the out-of-state economic impact by $120 million over 10 years.
  • Create more than 700 construction jobs (estimated number as of 3.19.15).
  • Create hundreds of new full-time jobs.
  • Increase investment in new and existing hotel, restaurant, and retail buildings throughout the community.
  • Help capture niche markets for Minnesota that Rochester is uniquely suited to host due to the presence of Mayo Clinic, Minnesota Partnership for Bio-Technology and Medical Genomics, University of Minnesota, and IBM.

If everything goes according to plan, construction will start in this summer.


"This is an exciting day for the city of Rochester and each of our union crews. We have been in the design and approval stage for several years now and we are eager to create something that will not only serve the city well, but will also give Rochester something to be proud of. We are grateful for all of the work that has already gone into this project. We have seen our local leaders fight tooth and nail to acquire the needed funding and we appreciate all of their efforts. Now it is time for us to take this project to the next level by fulfilling the city's vision of a first-class civic center and offering Rochester residents a truly great venue for years to come."

Gene Grover, President

semnbtc news Local Union And Businesses Help Energize Austin School

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association, in conjunction with local businesses and organizations completed the installation of a new solar array atop the Annex of Austin High School in Austin, MN this past August.

Through the donations of labor, materials, tools, and trade skills, the eco-friendly, 10-kilowatt solar array will generate enough energy to power one of the school's computer labs and provide an educational opportunity for Austin High School students moving forward.

Generous contributions were provided by local businesses and groups, according to Chad Katzung, business representative of the IBEW Local 343. Ecovision Electrical donated all of the design work for the setup, Austin Electric pulled permits, and provided tools and labor, Kestner Electric and Fox Electric donated materials; and Nietz Electric donated tools for the project. The IBEW Local 343, along with the NECA donated $6,000 to the project.

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Members of the IBEW donated all of their labor to install the solar array system. "Twenty-one members worked around 250 hours in just four days to complete the project," said Katzung. "That's approximately $15,000 in labor costs that were donated to the project. Because of the support and donations from local members, businesses and organizations, we were able to install a larger system, providing the school with greater energy savings."

"We are committed to our communities," said Katzung. "This was a great opportunity for the IBEW Local 343, NECA, local business and organizations, and electricians to work with the school district and complete a project that will have an immediate and positive impact." According to Katzing, "the efforts and cooperation of everyone involved was an energizing success and will help bring awareness solar arrays as an alternative, cost effective source of electricity."

Learn About the Building and Construction Trades at the Construct Tomorrow Career Fair

When: Thursday, September 25th, 2014
Time: 8:30am - 1:00pm
Where: Mayo Civic Center 30 Civic Center Drive SE Rochester, MN 55904

Are you a student interested in learning about careers in the construction industry? Join us for the Construct Tomorrow Career Fair - a hands on exploration of careers in construction.

The event features diverse exhibitors from different areas of the construction and building trades, including architecture, engineering, and project management. Students can also learn about starting their construction careers through union apprenticeship training programs - programs that pay you to learn a skilled trade without expensive college tuition costs, and set apprentices on a path to earning livable wages with great benefits. The Southeastern Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council will be on hand to answer questions and provide students with additional information about apprenticeship programs.

There's a world out there waiting to be built by you! We look forward to seeing you!

Rochester Civic Center Expansion Project Receives Approval

Governor Dayton was in Rochester recently to discuss the Mayo Civic Center expansion. After an eight year wait, the project was approved by the Legislature in May. The importance of the 188,000-square-foot expansion to the construction industry and the city of Rochester was noted by Eugene Grover, President of the Southeastern Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council (SEMNBCT).

rochester civic center

(Pictured from left to right: Eugene Grover, President of the Southeastern MN Building and Construction Trades Council; Governor Mark Dayton; and Tony Regner, Business Manager of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 6)

"This is a wonderful day for the city of Rochester and skilled workers in the area. The project will create approximately 1 million construction hours, employing 350 to 400 construction workers (estimated number as of June, 2014) during the construction phases, as well as generate more full-time positions at the Civic Center and throughout the Rochester community."

Mr. Grover is also hopeful about the prospect of signing a project labor agreement (PLA). "It would be the first time we've signed an agreement in the area in a number of years. The council will review the RCA containing the PLA in July."

According to Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede, the Mayo Civic Center Expansion project will provide a tremendous boost to the Rochester area economy. "Our projections show an increase in economic impact of $370 million over ten years," which includes "an estimated $120 million in economic impact from out-of-state attendees."

(Some information for this article provided by Post Bulletin)
SEMNBCT Donates to the Ronald McDonald House

The Southeastern Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council (SEMNBCT) has donated $1000 to the "Cruise" - a motorcycle ride benefiting the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, Minnesota, with all proceeds from the event benefiting the children and families who call the Ronald McDonald House their home-away-from-home while receiving medical treatment in Rochester.

"We are proud to support the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester," says Eugene Grover, President of the SEMNBCT. "In addition to our monetary donation, we have quite a few Trades workers participating in the event on July 27th - either volunteering or taking part in the ride. We encourage everyone to participate - it truly is a great event."

The "Cruise" takes place on Sunday, July 27th. You can register for the event online or from 8:30 am to 11:30 am at RCTC the day of the event. For more information, visit the "Cruise" website.


The Southeastern Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council (SEMNBCT) is comprised of local trade unions, and includes union representatives from the entire building and construction industry.

SEMNBCT exists to provide leadership to union members, promote and support the development of advanced knowledge by skilled workers, and offers guidance and support to owners and signatory contractors.