Building a Better Future

Twice in the last few weeks, the Carpenters have come down to Northfield to host a “Builders Brat Feed” for construction workers in Northfield. “The Carpenters” are the Lakes & Plains Regional Council of Carpenters and Joiners, and thanks to local resident Ben Miller, an organizer, they’ve been bringing down their big black truck and serving lunch. Why?
Lakes & Plains Regional Council of Carpenters and Joiners is bringing the big black truck and serving lunch to elevate recognition of organized labor, and specifically the Council of Carpenters & Joiners, in the local communities where they are working; to support signatory contractors that are doing business with the union; to promote these contractors, and to encourage members to get politically active and vote for labor endorsed candidates.

The first appearance was at the 3 Links “Common Bonds” project on Greenvale Avenue in Northfield, and sponsored by the carpenters and Shaw-Lundquist Associates, Inc., the general contractors. Representatives from Three Links and Shaw-Lundquist Associates joined us for lunch. This 3 Links project is noteworthy because not only is this project built by union labor, but unlike most new construction, it will remain in the hands of the developer to own and operate as senior housing, and they have incentive to assure quality – this building will be theirs. It was a beautiful day for lunch over a stump speech!

I talked to the workers about the need to invest in Minnesota again. I told them as a union member myself, I was pleased to be with them and glad to thank them for the good work they were doing in our community. We need to recognize the important part that the working people of Minnesota are playing in getting our country on the right track again. Right now our Governor and our House of Representatives say we all have to contribute to make things better while at the same time they have taken extreme measures to protect those who have benefited the most from good economic times, and who are now also benefiting from the economic downturn. At a time when it is obvious the importance of investing in education, support those who struggle to have a better economic footing, and solve the problem of the rising cost of Health Care insurance, they are instead shifting the tax burden to the middle class and the poor. They make all kinds of promises to protect education, and yet the don’t keep their Promises. The middle class and the prosperity that our state has known, outpacing all of our neighbors in the region, are at risk if we allow their policies to go forward.
The project manager on site said that way too many corners are cut in the construction business, particularly where the developer is selling the building to another to own and operate and where the project is driven by profit. Those trade-offs are not being made on this project. One carpenter said between bites that he gets a lot of satisfaction out of doing a good job, and he wants to know that the building is solid and well-built, that the site is kept clean and safe for workers and residents nearby. He is paying child support, day care and insurance for his kids, and because he has a union job with union wages, he is able to get by – at a non-union pay rate he probably couldn’t make it. He was concerned about the state of the economy, because in construction he felt the ups and downs more quickly than other sectors.
Both the project manager and worker noted that union members have the experience and training to get the job done right, from the simple things like reading a tape measure correctly the first time to troubleshooting the inevitable quagmires of logistical and scheduling problems.

At the next Carpenters visit, lunch was served at the emerging new Northfield Middle School.
This time, both myself and Teresa Daly, DFL endorsed candidate for the 2nd Congressional District, talked with a large group of workers about issues, and again, it’s the economy, there’s no getting around it.

We also heard from “the two Rons,” Ron Colburn and Ron Miller, who both urged them to participate, as Ron Colburn said, “they’re spending our tax dollars, and we need to let them know what we want. We need to let them know that Labor is on the job… we need to send the message that we’re out here, and we have to support Labor candidates.”
Ron Miller put it bluntly, “Look around you, look at those who don’t have the benefits you do. We have the right to fair wage where we’re working.” We have to remember that it’s past union members putting themselves on the line that gave us the lifestyle we have come to expect, 40 hour workweeks, health benefits, job security. And we have to do more than remember – we have to let those in office know we aren’t going backwards.
Another speaker also urged workers to let your neighbors and community know that you’re a union member, a union construction worker, and that we have a stake in our community.

In closing, I reminded the workers that this election is one of the most important elections in the history of our country, and more than any other time, we need to vote. We need to deliver the message that we can’t allow the moneyed powers that are stealing our democracy to win. Unions are the only force that stands against them to see that wealth is more fairly distributed. Over the last twenty years, unions have been hurt by laws that weaken the ability of workers to organize, and these laws came at the hands of Republican leadership. We must make a change to protect the dignity and rights of hard working Minnesotans. We must make a change so that our economy benefits everyone and not just a few. We must make a change so that all Minnesotans have an opportunity to prosper through good education and jobs with living wages.

Comments are closed.