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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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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 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."


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.