Labor, business and community leaders joined forces at a February 6 news conference to urge support for a new Vikings Stadium. At the Vikings Gridiron Club in the Metrodome, they stood together shoulder to shoulder in support of a plan proposed by Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak and city council president Barb Johnson to build a new Vikings stadium at the Metrodome site.
Bill McCarthy, president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, kicked-off the news conference:
“Labor is here today — with friends from the business community and with our nonprofit community partners — to talk about a cause that unites us all: building a new Vikings stadium here in downtown Minneapolis on the Metrodome site. Keeping a Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis is vitally important to our city,” McCarthy said.
“We have a serious and continuing jobs crisis in our state, our region and our city,” McCarthy said. He noted that the unemployment rate in the construction trades was running 20 percent. And, he added, the black unemployment rate in Minneapolis was 20.7 percent.
Building a new stadium would bring an estimated 13,000 jobs, including 7,500 construction jobs, according to the Minnesota Vikings.
McCarthy said unions were working with community partners like Summit Academy and the Urban League to be sure that jobs created with building a new stadium go to the community members who need the jobs the most.
A new Vikings stadium could follow the example of Target Field, which established -— and met -— ambitious community hiring goals.
“We set very aggressive workforce goals,” said Lynn Littlejohn, director of community affairs at Mortenson Construction, Target Field’s general contractor. Of the 3,500 workers who worked to build Target Field, Littlejohn reported, 95 percent were local and one-third were women and minorities.
“We as a community believe in this project. We want jobs to come to our community,” said Louis King, president and CEO of Summit Academy OIC. Summit Academy offers vocational training and has partnered with building trades unions to increase the number of people of color and women in the trades.
A group of more than 20 Summit Academy students, wearing hardhats and safety vests, attended the news conference.
“We believe the best social service program is a job,” King said. “If you build [the stadium] in this community, our community will participate.”
“This is about jobs and opportunity,” said Scott Gray, president and CEO of the Urban League. “We need to get this done together. We want to be sure underserved communities are part of this deal going forward.”
“We are united with these workers,” said business leader Sam Grabarski, president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council. “We want their jobs and their careers to be found in this construction project.” He announced that the business community was reviving the same kind of effort that helped win support for building Target Field.
The MRLF’s Bill McCarthy highlighted two labor agreements with the Vikings to ensure that the jobs created will be good jobs.
The Vikings have agreed that the construction work will be all-union, said Dan McConnell, business manager for the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council.
With UNITE HERE Local 17 — the union for stadium concession workers — the Vikings have signed a pledge to retain all current union workers and to add new concession workers under a labor-peace agreement.
The number of concession workers would grow from 700 currently at the Metrodome to 1,200 at a new stadium.
“If we want to do jobs, if we want to put people to work, there’s not a single thing we can do that’s more important than building a new Vikings stadium,” Mayor Rybak said. To the city council members who so far have not added their support, he said: “There’s not a single action you can take in this term at city hall that creates more jobs.”
“We’re calling on all Minneapolis city council members — and our state legislators — to add their support to the mayor’s plan,” MRLF president McCarthy said.
A reporter asked Mayor Rybak how confident he was of succeeding in winning support for his plan. With the Superbowl game the night before still fresh on everyone’s minds, Rybak replied: “I’m as confident as Tom Brady when he had the ball, moving down the field; I’m as confident as Eli Manning, when he had the ball, moving down the field.” And, Rybak added: “I’m always confident when I have the ball. And I have the ball.”
Workers speak out about the need for jobs
In addition to the speakers at the news conference, the event drew a crowd of about 75 stadium supporters, including union building trades workers and Summit Academy students.
Before and after the news conference, approaching anyone in the crowd at random readily found someone who could speak to the personal impact of building a new Vikings stadium.
Clark Chappel, who lives in the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis, is a student at Summit Academy who is graduating this spring. He said a new Vikings stadium would “create some employment for everybody in the construction industry — hopefully, me.”
“The Vikings stadium would be a perfect job to start out with,” he said.
Currently unemployed, Gary Stordahl, 17-year member of Laborers Local 563, lives in the Nokomis Neighborhood in Minneapolis. “For me, it would give me an income and work,” he said.
“I haven’t worked for more than two years,” said Miguel Martinez, 18-year member of IBEW Local 292, who lives in the Longfellow Neighborhood in Minneapolis. “It may put me to work.”
“We need to invest to create jobs,” Martinez said. “This is one way.”
After the news conference, Summit Academy president Louis King addressed some of the 20-plus Summit Academy students who attended, encouraging them to also go to the state capitol to make the case for a new Vikings stadium.
King said to the group: “We want to work and we want to pay taxes. Imagine that. Everybody else is trying to avoid taxes.”