Dick Anfang, retiring Building Trades president, offers advice to younger workers in the trades


Before retiring last month as president of the Minnesota State Building & Construction Trades Council, Dick Anfang sat and talked about the changes and challenges he’s seen — and the opportunities ahead.

“Right now the huge challenge is to get the economy going, to put our members who are out of work back to work in a union environment,” he said. “I have never seen (unemployment in the Building Trades) this high,” he acknowledged.

Still, Anfang maintained, entering the Building Trades “absolutely” is a good choice for a young person seeking a career. “If you’re 18 years old, you’ve got 40 years to work. Those who are prepared and ready will do well.” “Be prepared to sacrifice in the beginning and to continually upgrade yourself in your career,” he said. “It requires continued learning throughout your career,” said Anfang, who went to St. Paul College to learn a trade and later taught there.

He added: “Work hard. Show up. Plan for ups and downs.”

Anfang’s own start in the Trades began with an unexpected turn. About a year out of high school he was laid-off from a railroad job when he took the Plumbers’ apprentice test and planned to enroll in the Plumbing program at St. Paul College in the fall.

Then a girlfriend’s dad, who was a painting contractor, “gave me a job for the summer and I became a painter, a union painter,” he said.

Anfang, now 62 and a 42-year member of Painters Local 61, worked in the trade and rose in union leadership. He served as a business agent, then moved to leadership in the St. Paul Building Trades and Minnesota Building Trades. He has served as state president for 10 years.

Anfang plans to resign from several other positions he holds, but he plans to continue serving as chair of the St. Paul Port Authority board and on the board of Union Bank and Trust.

Come September, Anfang said, “my sweet wife and I are going to get on our motorcycle and take a five-week trip” to the west coast, “all on a motorcyle, all camping.”

“Then we’ll see what happens.”

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