Hundreds gather in Minneapolis as part of nationwide rallies for immigration reform

As part of a nationwide day of action April 10, a rally for commonsense immigration reform in Minneapolis featured speakers from labor, the faith community, business and immigrant workers’ groups. The crowd of several hundred people gathering at the Hennepin County Government Center plaza included many families with young children.“There are rallies like this everywhere,” Javier Morillo-Alicea, president of SEIU Local 26, told the Minneapolis rally. “The crowd is estimated at 100,000 people in Washington, D.C.”“Sisters and brothers, the time is now for commonsense immigration reform,” said Steve Hunter, secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, who noted that he, too, was the grandson of immigrants. “Empowering immigrant workers is a win for all working people,” he said. “By fixing our broken immigration system, immigrant workers will have a voice in the workplace…”Father Kevin Kenny, representing the Archdiocese of St. Continue Reading

Lockout ends in Detroit Lakes

In yet another Minnesota workplace, an employer has chosen to lock out union workers rather than negotiate a new contract. However, in the case of Snappy Air Distribution Products in Detroit Lakes, the lockout ended after eight days. Members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 10 who work at Snappy voted Friday, March 8, by a margin of 77-16 to reject the company’s contract offer. They did not vote to strike.When the workers reported to work Monday morning, March 11, however, they found they were locked out from their jobs.The 96 members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 10 at Snappy work to manufacture residential HVAC fittings and duct work.“There are 70 people who have been there 25 years or more,” reported Jim Bowman, business manager of Local 10. “They’ve been loyal to the company all these years. Continue Reading

Mortenson Construction wins bid to manage construction of new Minnesota Vikings football stadium

The Minnesota Sports Facility Authority voted unanimously February 15 to select Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction to oversee construction of the new Minnesota Vikings football stadium.Once underway, construction of the new stadium will be the largest construction project in the state, said Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Sports Facilities Authority.“In total, about 7,500 crafts-people will work on this project by the time we’re done,” said Ken Sorensen, Mortenson vice president and general manager. “We are looking forward to putting people to work.”Mortenson also worked to build the new Minnesota Twins ballpark and the new University of Minnesota football stadium.“They’re a great firm. They have great experience,” said Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development.The Vikings and the Sports Facilities Authority had narrowed the final choice of construction managers to Mortenson and Arizona-based Hunt Construction.“Taking away the issue of where Mortenson is based… they still were the strongest team, the best fit,” Bagley said. “The bonus is they’re the home team. They did a great job on Target Field. Continue Reading

Anoka County repeals prevailing wage policy

With no advance public notice or public hearing, the Anoka County board voted 4-2 February 12 to rescind its 23-year-old policy supporting prevailing wage on county-funded construction projects.Commissioners voting for the repeal: chair Rhonda Sivarajah, Julie Braastad, Matt Look, Robyn West. Commissioners voting against the repeal: Jim Kordiak, Carol LeDoux. Absent: Scott Schulte.The prevailing wage policy had applied to county-funded construction projects costing more than $10,000.Prevailing wage supporters took issue with the board’s process to revoke the long-standing policy and maintained that the prevailing wage policy ensured quality construction work for the county while also ensuring workers received a fair wage.“For a county that prides itself on transparency — that won an award for transparency — there’s an awful lack of transparency here,” said Dan McConnell, business manager of the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council. “I would ask our members who live in Anoka County to contact their county commissioners and ask them to reinstate prevailing wage.”Prevailing wage policies require that employees working on government-funded construction projects receive wage rates comparable to wages paid for similar work in the area where the project is located.“[Prevailing wage] prevents local contractors from being undercut by bidders from low-wage areas,” McConnell said, and, in the case of the Anoka County policy, “keeps the money in Anoka County.”Prevailing wage policies long have become a target for opponents of organized labor, who charge that the policies favor union contractors.Prevailing wage supporters maintain that the policies level the playing field between union and non-union bidders — by requiring all bidders pay the same wage rates.Over the past two election cycles, organized labor lost a pro-labor majority on the Anoka County board and a move by the new majority to repeal prevailing wage was feared.“I’ve seen it coming,” said Commissioner Jim Kordiak, one of the two “no” votes. But the timing of the vote February 12 came as a surprise.“It was introduced at a very clever time in my view,” Kordiak told the Labor Review. Continue Reading

SEIU Local 26 janitors, security officers vote to authorize strike in Twin Cities

In back to back votes, SEIU Local 26 security officers and janitors voted February 9 to authorize their respective bargaining committees to call a strike at any time.Both groups of workers have been working under expired contracts since December 31.The 6,000 janitors and security officers work for many of the same contractors, providing services at downtown and suburban workplaces for many of the Twin Cities’ largest corporations.“Never before have janitors and security officers been negotiating a contract at the same time,” said Javier Morillo-Alicea, president of SEIU Local 26. “We have a common goal — to move our families and our community forward… Our employers have a common goal — they want to move us backward…”Security contractors’ proposals include moving hundreds of full-time positions to part-time, eliminating all benefits and access to health care.Janitorial contractors’ proposals include cuts to more than 50 percent of janitors, including pay cuts as high as 40 percent.Before the strike votes, the janitors and security officers who filled an auditorium at the Minneapolis Convention Center heard from their bargaining committee members, Congressman Keith Ellison, and labor and community allies.Brahim Kone, a janitor at Flint Hills Refinery, and member of the janitors’ bargaining committee, reported: “The companies want to take us 10 years backwards… They want all the buildings in the suburbs to go from full-time to part-time.” That would mean a pay cut from $13.42 per hour to $10.00 per hour. Going to part-time, he added, also meant that “the health benefits will be cut.”“We are being treated unfairly,” Kone said.For Kone, the stakes are very real and very personal. He and his wife, who is in school, have two children. “I am the only one working,” he said. Continue Reading

Workers file complaints about health and safety violations while cleaning Target stores

A security guard in a red winter coat stood outside the locked door to Target’s corporate headquarters, keeping an eye on a couple of dozen people gathered outside.Target locked the doors to its corporate headquarters in downtown Minneapolis January 17 rather than allow representatives of a workers’ organization to hand-deliver a letter outlining concerns about health and safety issues for the workers who clean Target stores.“For a long time, workers have been cleaning Target stores in conditions they find unsafe, unhealthy and even dangerous,” said Veronica Mendez, an organizer for CTUL — Centro de Trabjdores Unidos en la Lucha.CTUL announced that two dozen employees of retail cleaning companies who work cleaning Twin Cities metro Target stores had filed complaints January 17 with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.“I worked cleaning for Target for three years,” said Honorio Hernandez. “In that time I never received any training for how to work safely with the chemicals…”Another concern: Cleaning workers are locked inside the store while they work an overnight cleaning shift.“Sometimes I am told to work cleaning the store all night long,” said Marco Tulio Perez, an employee of Carlson Building Maintenance who cleans a Twin Cities Target store. “When that happens, the doors are locked and we cannot get out unless we call someone to come let us out. I don’t know what would happen if there was a fire or some other emergency. That’s really dangerous. Continue Reading

History Theatre play celebrates life of Minnesota’s pioneering union activist, Nellie Stone Johnson

History Theatre’s production “Nellie,” tells the story of Minnesota’s Nellie Stone Johnson, a pioneering black union activist who became a Minnesota labor leader in the 1930s. In 1945, she became the first black person elected to citywide office in Minneapolis, winning a seat on the library board. The show opens January 26 and runs through February 17 (see sidebar).

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Labor urging jobs, revenue when legislature convenes with new DFL majorities

When the Minnesota legislature convenes January 8 at 12 noon everything will have changed — and nothing will have changed. What’s changed: for the first time in a generation, the DFL holds majorities in both the Minnesota House and Senate and also holds the governor’s office. What hasn’t changed: the state faces structural budget deficits that the last several legislative sessions have failed to address.

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