Employment Opportunity with the IUOE

Employment Opportunity with the IUOE

As the International Union of Operating Engineers near completion of the International Training & Conference Center in Texas, the IUOE is beginning to interview and hire critical personnel.

They are looking for applicants for the position of a Master Mechanic/Equipment Superintendent. Candidates shall have experience with repair, maintenance and set-up of Hoisting & Portable equipment in the IUOE’s jurisdiction, including but not limited to:

A) Crawler, Hydraulic and Tower Cranes

B) All “dirt” equipment

C) Pipeline equipment

Please send resumes to: Joe Giacin, Chief of staff at jgiacin@iuoe.org

August 21, 2017

Pulling Our Weight: Restoring the Minnesota State Capitol

Pulling Our Weight: Restoring the Minnesota State Capitol

After four years of work, the Minnesota State Capitol restoration is finally complete. The State Capitol hasn’t undergone a restoration process since 1905, and Local 49 members were proud to be a part of this historic effort.

While there were only 20 operators on site performing several different scopes of work, Local 49 was involved in all four years of the restoration process and members were involved in many of the key exterior and interior work that was needed.


What part of the Capitol did our members work on?

Local 49 members were a visible part of the restoration project as our members operated the cranes that serviced many other trades by delivering construction materials to them. Members operated forklifts to unload and deliver materials to cranes and to different areas of the job.

There were also several members doing exterior site-work on the project removing and loading out the old driveways, sidewalks, and excavating and grading for the new installation.

Local 49 signatory contractor, Bolander, had a unique part in the removal of concrete and earth in the basement of the Capitol so a new HVAC Duct system could be installed. Due to the fact that the Capitol was not closed during this time, all removal had to be done either by hand or with electric machinery. Bolander excavated 7,000 yards of dirt from the Capitol this way.

“Electric excavators and hand carts were our big means of moving dirt; the excavators had cords so those needed to be tended by people and all of the dirt was then buggyed to an opening of the foundation where a skid steer could then remove the dirt from the Capitol,” said John Caroon, Senior Project Manager for Bolander.

Caroon said it was crucial that the removal process didn’t cause any dust or major disruption. “It was a big challenge to do work with electric equipment and maintain a clean and dust-free environment for our workers and the public—that was the big catch,” Caroon said.

Local 49 members were also responsible for the removal and reinstallation of the famous Quadrigas.

Kris Houg, a 14-year crane operator, was key in the removal and installation of the 12,500-pound Quadriga.

“It [the Quadriga] had to go up and over the roof of the capitol and reach over the whole building to set it back in place,” Houg said. “Removing it was much easier than re-installing it.”

Levi Cain, a Local 49 crane apprentice, worked with Houg as his signaler to safely remove the Quadriga and re-install it.

“The Quadriga had to go across the entire building which meant that Kris couldn’t see where he was landing the load—I was his eyes,” Cain said.

Cain explained that through radio communication he led Houg safely to where the Quadriga was supposed to be placed..”

“It’s a big responsibility because you are the crane operator’s eyes and you have to gain the trust of the crane operator,” he added. “If you don’t have the operator’s trust then he won’t let you signal for him.”

Cain and Houg were also a part of the team who removed and reinstalled all of the steps around the Capitol. Houg explained that the 3,000 stones were lifted four to five times to be cleaned, prepped, cut, and moved around to create the final product.

“It was really neat to see what craftsmanship when into how the steps were re-done compared to what was there from past restorations,” Houg said. “The amount of work they did to perfect it for those steps to last another 100 years was perfect.”


Looking Back at a Historic Project

With more than 350 workers from all different crafts working on the project, safety and efficiency was key. John Caroon, Senior Project Manager for Bolander said the entire project went “seamlessly.”

“I have never been a part of a project where everyone on the project team from JE Dunn (Local 49 signatory employer) to the mechanical, electrical and other trades worked so seamlessly together,” he said. “After a while working together it was going so well the project meetings would only take 45 minutes because everything was lined up. It went way better than expected given the complexity of the project.”

Caroon also noted the historic achievement in being a part of this restoration process. “We [Bolander] are a long-standing local company who’s been in business for nearly 100 years, and we were honored to be a part of the project,” he added.

Both Cain and Houg also recognized what an important project this has been for them personally and for the state.



“As you see things come apart and go back together, you see what an important landmark that building is,” Houg said. “We’re quite lucky to have that nice of a Capitol in our state—it’s something to be proud of.”

“Not a whole lot of apprentices can say they were a part of Minnesota State Capitol remodel,” Cain said. “And basically being the only crane operator apprentice there was an honor—I loved working there, and I was happy to be a part of the crew.”


For more Local 49 stories visit www.local49.org.

August 11, 2017

Pulling Our Weight: Building the St. Croix Crossing Bridge

Pulling Our Weight: Building the St. Croix Crossing Bridge

Minnesota and Wisconsin are now linked by a shiny new bridge over the St. Croix river—a bridge that involved Local 49 members in all phases of its construction. Today marks the grand opening of the St. Croix Crossing Bridge, which replaced the 80-year old Stillwater Lift Bridge. Four years after breaking ground on the project, the work is finally complete.

The St. Croix Crossing Bridge was a massive project for Local 49 members and our signatory contractors. This joint venture project through Lunda Construction and Ames Construction employed more than 100 operators throughout the entire duration of the bridge construction.


What part of the bridge did Local 49 members work on?

Hoisting of materials was our members’ main task in constructing the bridge span. Members also assisted other trades by placing concrete forms into place. Operating Engineers operated the custom built segment placing cranes that hoisted the pre-cast bridge segments into place.

“The segments were up to 180 tons a piece, and we had designed and fabricated a special erecting crane for this job,” said Dale Even, the Senior Project Manger for Lunda Construction. “That piece of equipment was designed specifically for this structure. So that was a truly one-off piece of equipment that could only fit this bridge project.”


“We had to hang the segments in a double shift environment, that was somewhat new, having two different pre-casting systems deployed to get the bridge accomplished in that time frame,” said Justin Gabrielson, the Operations Manager for Ames Construction. 

The bridge is comprised of 996 segments, 710 of which were installed in 2016. 

Several crane operators were also placed on barges in the river that worked to lift the segments for the bridge. More than 20 cranes were in use at peak construction.

“It was just a sea of [crane] booms. We had radios and for a while every crane and barge had their own [radio] channel so everyone knew where everyone would be, and we were always coordinating,” said Mark Conrad a 16-year crane operator who worked on the St. Croix Crossing Bridge all four years.

Conrad was one of the Local 49 operators who got the opportunity to operate one of the two rare 660-ton ringer cranes, which erected the segments for the bridge, out on a barge. 

“I don’t know if I’ll ever run into that kind of opportunity again,” Conrad said. “To be able to run a ringer crane of that size – which took a month to put together and a month to take it apart -- and just knowing all that it can do was amazing.”

Operating Engineers also served as tugboat pilots and deckhands to deliver construction materials by barge to different piers and locations on the river and to position cranes on the river. The tugboats also delivered the pre-cast segments on barges from Grey Cloud Island near Cottage Grove to the bridge.

“Barging the pre-cast segments from Grey Cloud Island was a 30 mile trip one way, and we had 650 segments transported to the job site that way,” Even said. 

Local 49 members also excavated and drove piling for the foundations and piers on land as well as drilled caissons and excavated for the piers in the water. Operating Engineers operated the concrete pump trucks that placed the concrete for almost all bridge construction including piers.

Our members built the roads leading up the bridge, and removed the old roads to realign and rebuild them. This included all aspects of road building from subgrade preparation to asphalt paving. 

According to Even, the Lunda and Ames crews self-performed 67% of the work on the bridge.


One of a Kind Project

The $646 million bridge design is so unique that it’s only the second of its kind in the United States. A bridge this distinctive posed unique challenges along the way that took some major ingenuity, and having an experienced workforce was key to accomplishing this project.

According to Even, the first challenge was the bridge design itself. The bridge design is known as an extradosed bridge. “It’s a hybrid between a box girder bridge and a stay cable bridge,” Even said.

Another unique part of the process was working through the harsh Minnesota winter.

“We had to aerate the river to keep the water open, because if ice had accumulated we wouldn’t have been able to get the construction personnel out to the places they needed to work,” Gabrielson said. “We had people servicing those machines [to aerate the river] all day.”

Even explained the steep bluff on the Wisconsin side of the bridge was challenging due to the limited access workers had to build that piece of the bridge.

“We built a falsework system of a bridge – which is a temporary structure – that we kept a 270-ton tower crane on. That gave us our access to build pier 13 and provided the support to set the segments,” Even said.

Reflecting on Bridge Completion

Today’s unveiling of the St. Croix Crossing Bridge wraps up four years of hard work and dedication from all who were involved.

“The pride in knowing we built something that’s beyond the scope of anything Minnesota has ever done, and to know it will be there long after I’m gone is amazing,” Local 49 member Mark Conrad reflected. “It’s built to stand the test of time, and I’m really thankful that I had the chance to be a part of this.” 

“We’re very fortunate to have been able to partner with Lunda, MnDOT and WisDOT. The safety of all the crafts people for this size project was a priority, which is good,” Gabrielson said. “We have many skilled crafts people and I’m very proud of that.”

Local 49 also recognizes all of our members and signatory contractors who worked on the St. Croix Crossing Bridge.

“It was a great experience being part of this project. I couldn't be more proud of the work that my fellow 49ers did in building this bridge. In the 4 years it took to build it, we had 49ers just starting their careers and had a few retire on the project too,” said Local 49 Business Agent Tim Olson.

“This is one of those jobs that everyone will look back on with great pride and tell people that they helped build it,” Olson added.


Get email updates from Local 49

Local 49 will be unveiling several 90th Anniversary stories, videos and much more. Stay tuned to local49.org and facebook.com/local49 for more information.

August 2, 2017

Local 49 Announces Endorsements for Minneapolis & St. Paul Mayoral Candidates

Local 49 Announces Endorsements for Minneapolis & St. Paul Mayoral Candidates

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, the state’s largest construction union representing close to 14,000 heavy equipment operators, announced today that it has endorsed Jacob Frey for Minneapolis Mayor and Pat Harris for St. Paul Mayor.



Click here to view the Jacob Frey endorsement release                                Click here to view the Pat Harris endorsement release



August 1, 2017

An Open Letter to the U.S. Forest Service & Bureau of Land Management on MN Mining

An Open Letter to the U.S. Forest Service & Bureau of Land Management on MN Mining

Read the open letter that was published in the Star Tribune today, July 18, 2017 by Jobs for Minnesotans calling out the U.S. Forest Service & the Bureau of Land Management on Minnesota Mining. The letter states that both organizations have attempted to block any new mining projects in the Arrowhead region and the good jobs that go with them. Local 49 along with 16 other organizations that include other building trade unions, labor organizations and local city/county organizations signed in solidarity.

You can show your support for mining by attending the public hearing on Tuesday, July 25 at 4:30 PM at the Virginia High School Auditorium in Virginia, MN.

Click here to view the full letter.

July 18, 2017

Rally to Support Mining

Rally to Support Mining

In advance of the final U.S. Forest Service (USFS) public hearing on the future of mining in our region, mining supporters will celebrate our 130-year tradition with a rally to support mining before a united march to the hearing.


Hear from leaders in our region, enjoy FREE food and refreshments and learn how to sign up with USFS to ensure the voices of our region are heard during the hearing. Then, march to the high school in solidarity, sign up with the USFS to earn a We Support Mining t-shirt to wear during the hearing as a visual reminder to the USFS of who would be hurt most by their proposed action against mining.


Click here for more details

July 13, 2017

Gene Sebion

Gene Sebion

Eugene “Dean/Gene” Earl Sebion, an instructor at the Local 49 Training Center, passed away June 25, 2017.

Eugene worked as a crane operator with the Operating Engineers Local 49 in Minneapolis; and later in his career worked as a training instructor in Hinkley, MN for the Local 49.

Funeral Services will be held at 12:00 p.m., noon, on Thursday, June 29 at the New Centerville United Methodist Church, on County Road Y, East of the intersection of County Road Y and County Road M, New Centerville. Visitation will be held from 10:00-12:00 p.m. on Thursday at the church. Interment at the Greenwood Cemetery in Emerald, WI.

Click here for the full obituary.


June 27, 2017

April Lee

April Lee

From the office to the outdoors – Local 49 member April Lee left her office job at United Health Group last year to pursue a career as an operating engineer.

Lee worked for United Health Group for 10 years before leaving and credits her husband, who is a member of IUOE Local 232, for encouraging her to switch professions.

“My husband is always talking highly about unions and really sees the value in them,” Lee explained. “I was getting tired of my job and one day as I was driving down the road I thought, ‘I could be an operating engineer. It looks a lot more fun and challenging.’”

Lee started inquiring about becoming a member of Local 49 and was eventually hired on by Kramer North America as a crane oiler. “I was just so in awe of the crane and the functionality of it, and of the operators themselves, how effortless they look,” Lee said. “I know it takes more work than they make it look, so I just really wanted to pursue cranes as a career after I spent the summer around them.”

Now that Lee has been a member of Local 49 for a year, she says that there is no comparison between her previous job and being an operator.

“Being in an office job can make you very lethargic and now I have much more energy. I enjoy being outside, and working with my hands is much more rewarding,” Lee explained. “I’m seeing what’s being done and getting to see the finished product and can take pride in that. With an office job, you don’t get that kind of reward, you don’t always get to see those finished products.”

“There’s also more support with being in the union, specifically more than with an office job,” she added. “In the office, it’s every man for themselves and you’re not really supporting each other, you’re just fighting to get to the top. Here, it doesn’t feel like that because everyone is trying to achieve the same goal and wants you to be the best you can be.”

Lee said another key aspect that motivated her to switch jobs was the health and retirement benefits that Local 49 offers. “The pension and health benefits are completely better than what I’ve had before,” she said.

“The health insurance with Local 49 is even better than my husband’s benefits, they cover more, have a lower deductible and are just better all around,” Lee said. “For the retirement benefits, I had a 401K with my previous company and what I made in 10 years in my 401K with that company’s match, I actually made about half of in just three months working with the union.”

Another critical part of Lee’s switch to Local 49 was the crane apprenticeship program through the Local 49 Training Center and being able to broaden her knowledge and education.

Her employer, Kramer North America, sponsored Lee to become an apprentice at the Local 49 Training Center so she could get the training she needed to eventually become a crane operator. “The training program is an outstanding program that you don’t find in other jobs,” she said.

Lee explained that becoming a crane apprentice has made her a much more confident operator.

“Some of it was more difficult than other parts, like the classroom part of it. It’s so much information, but it was very helpful and it gave me a better idea of what goes into crane operating and the mechanics of the crane,” Lee explained. “I feel that it was an extremely beneficial part of the class to take.”

Lee explained that the hands-on part of the crane apprenticeship training program made her more prepared for, and comfortable with, operating a crane on the job.

“Last summer I would jump in the cab and I would say (to the crane operator), ‘I’m not jumping in the cab without you standing there,’” Lee said. “Now I’m confident I could jump in without someone standing there telling me to do the job. I’m not intimidated anymore.”

“Ultimately my goal is to be an operator and that’s why I joined the crane apprenticeship program. I don’t expect that immediately, but the goal is to be a full-time operator,” she added.

For more stories like April’s, visit www.local49training.org under the Apprenticeship Stories section.

June 23, 2017

Al Gilbertson

Al Gilbertson

Al Gilbertson, an employee of Vic’s Cranes & Heavy Haul Inc., is currently the sole operator for the largest crawler crane in Minnesota. As a 13-year member of Local 49, Gilbertson has had experience operating different types of cranes and has dedicated his 13-year career as a member of Local 49 to learning all he can about these machines. “I went through all of the Local 49 Training Center’s crane classes, and took all of those opportunities and capitalized on them,” Gilbertson said.

Right out of high school Gilbertson operated some smaller hydraulic cranes, but for most of his time prior to operating cranes he was a residential carpenter. “I did carpentry for a number of years but knew I wanted to get back into the crane industry and have a career with that,” he said.

Gilbertson re-entered the rental crane industry working for Mortenson to install wind turbines.

“I took the opportunity to chase wind turbines all around the country for seven years, and with putting them up they obviously use rather large (crane) rigs and that’s what got me into large crawler cranes,” Gilbertson explained. “So, just being on that side of it and working my way up from the smaller rigs into the larger rigs is how I got my crawler crane experience.”

After his time at Mortenson, Gilbertson heard of an opportunity at Vic’s Cranes, which was closer to home. “At that time I was getting kind of tired of traveling across the country putting up wind turbines, so it just happened to work out perfectly that they were looking for help and I was looking to stay home,” he said. “I came on board officially in 2013 and they’ve kept me busy ever since.”

Once Vic’s Cranes purchased what is now the largest crawler crane in Minnesota in the summer of 2015, the company immediately asked Gilbertson if he would be interested in operating it, which he gladly accepted.

Gilbertson also mentioned that he is a second-generation member of Local 49 – with a twist. “In 2006 I was working at a company that needed a forklift operator, so I had called the business agent that got me in Local 49 in 2004 and asked if that was the kind of job my dad could do with his kind of experience. So actually, my dad got in Local 49 after me, which the business agent told me was really rare,” he said with a laugh.

“At the time he was partially retired, but he was getting bored so he came out to help where I was working and is now happily retired again as of last year,” Gilbertson added.

Since being the sole operator of that crane Gilbertson has been on many unique jobs. At the end of May he was in Rochester installing a new boiler for Seneca Foods. “They had to set 90,000 pounds and 280 feet into the building. There were too many obstructions in the way to try and bring it in from the outside, so they got a hold of us to bring it in through the roof,” he explained.

According to Gilbertson, one of the heaviest sets that he’s done was a job in East Dubuque, Illinois setting an ammonia vessel that weighed three-quarters of a million pounds. Gilbertson said that a lot of the jobs that he’s called on to do are for instances where it’s an extremely heavy load that needs to go a far distance.

Gilbertson didn’t get to where he is today all on his own; he credits his fellow Local 49 members for helping him along the way.

“My experience with Local 49 has been great. The guys that I worked with when I first got into the crane industry were absolutely instrumental in getting me where I am today,” Gilbertson explained. “I was very fortunate to make friends with some very good operators who taught me the right things along the way – it’s because of them that I am where I am today.”

He added that during his time installing wind turbines around the country he knew that Local 49 operators were the best operators nationwide. “When you meet a 49er or call a 49er out to a job, they’re well versed and they understand their job – you don’t find that with a lot of the other locals.”

June 16, 2017

90 Years Building Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota

90 Years Building Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota

In honor of Local 49’s 90th Anniversary we celebrate the accomplishments that Local 49 has achieved and its history over the past 90 years. Most importantly we celebrate our members—past, present and future, and the work they have accomplished building Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota for the last 90 years.

“Local 49 has stood the test of time and I believe that’s because of the hard work, dedication, and passion of our membership. Over Local 49’s 90-year history, we have survived economic, political, and employment influxes and we have done so successfully during these times because in unity there is strength.”
Glen Johnson
Business Manager

Local 49 was chartered on June 10th, 1927 as a result of the unification of Twin Cities Locals 84 and 86, which had been chartered in late 1901 with Local 42A. On December 31, 1938, our charter was re-issued to cover approximately 300 Hoisting and Portable members in the state of Minnesota, holding meetings above Witts Grocery on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. Hoisting and Portable Local 723 of Fargo, North Dakota joined Local 49 on June 1st, 1946, which gave Local 49 jurisdiction over the entire state of North Dakota. Locals 560 and 560A of Rapid City, South Dakota, with territorial jurisdiction over all of South Dakota merged with Local 49 on December 1st, 1950, and our charter now includes all of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Local 49 has members that span throughout many generations, from members who have been with the union for more than 40 years to members who have just joined last year. In honor of Local 49’s 90th anniversary, we asked some of our members to share their thoughts and feelings on how the industry has changed over the years.

Darrell Martell, a 41-year member who primarily did sewer and water work, reflected on what has changed in the industry from when he first started compared to today.

“Safety has changed a lot,” Martell expressed. “They did a lot of gutsy things back then, things I wouldn’t do myself, but men would go down into these holes for certain sewer and water work and I couldn’t understand how they did that. I remember when OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) kicked in because then it got better and the companies had to abide by the new safety rules,” Martell added.


Al Gilbertson, a 13-year member, also noted the safety changes from when he had first started in 2004.

“One of the big things is the safety aspect, and from what I see, it went from one end of the pendulum all the way to the other; meaning that there wasn’t enough safety, and we probably did some things we shouldn’t have done, now it’s swung almost too far to the other way…We need to find a happy medium,” Gilbertson said.

Gilbertson also recalled change in technology over the past 10 years. “We still used conventional cranes when I first got into the industry and they are a little more difficult to run, and nowadays you see them phased out for the new hydraulic cranes,” Gilbertson said. “With that being said, I do believe that the newer hydraulic cranes are safer and a more operator friendly machine.”

Gilbertson also commented on the amount of computers that are in heavy equipment now.

“I never dreamt I would know this much about computers as I do now, all just to be able to run the crane. I had talked to some (Ziegler) CAT representatives a few years ago now, and some of the designers from CAT flat out told me that they’ve started designing their cabs to be more like a video game to get the younger generation to come into the industry,” Gilbertson said.

Lyle Olson, a 52-year member and retired crane operator, reflected on the changes in health care and pension benefits over the years., “I’m glad I was a steady union guy, because now I have a great union pension and health policy. People overlook the benefits side of it, and I’ve seen people who got in too late and wished they had joined the union sooner,” Olson said. “It’s been a good ride for me, and now I ended up with a really good pension and health insurance. Local 49 really took care of me, and I have no regrets."


Dave Doebel, a 32-year member, talked about the change in health care and how he’s glad that Local 49 and the Health Plan planned ahead for these changes. “I remember back in the day Glen [Johnson—Business  Manager of Local 49] told all of us that health insurance costs are going to become astronomical and he was right,” Doebel said. “I’m fortunate that in 32 years I’ve always had carry over hours in the winter months (to maintain his health insurance) and I felt bad for those that didn’t and had to fork out that money and still put food on the table for their kids.”

Doebel’s father was also a member of Local 49 and inspired him to be a heavy equipment operator. Doebel said he even remembers what his father told him the day he said he was going to be a heavy equipment operator. “I remember my dad saying that if I was going to pursue this kind of work, you have to work hard and do a great job for a good day’s pay, and he was right,” Doebel said.

Local 49 Business Manager, Glen Johnson, commented on the changes he has seen over his time as both the Business Manger of Local 49, and as a member.

“Looking back at when Local 49 was first incepted compared to today so much has changed in our industry from safety regulations to the kind of technology that is in the equipment now. Despite these changes Local 49 has flourished because we have adapted to the times, and through our state-of-the-art Training Center, our members can train on the latest equipment to continue to set themselves apart from the rest of the industry,” Johnson said.

“On a national level, so much has changed in regards to health insurance and retirement benefits. With health care costs rising and pensions becoming almost non-existent, Local 49 has once again prospered because of the leadership and vision at our Health and Welfare Fund and Central Pension Fund. These organizations have had the foresight to plan for these influxes to make sure our members and their families are able to have quality and affordable health care, and to be able to retire with dignity,” Johnson added.

April Lee, who has only been a member for a year, said she is proud to be a member of Local 49 and feels members should be proud of Local 49’s 90-year history. “Local 49 has been around for so long and they care about the members because they fight for everything that we get,” Lee said. “They were back when it was fighting for a 40 hour work week to even today just fighting to get legislation for the transportation bill. It’s actually very inspiring to be a part of that, and Local 49 still maintains that tradition to fight for the rights of workers and provide jobs for their members,” she added.

Looking to the future, Local 49 will continue to build Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota and will continue to do what is necessary to provide quality jobs for our members now and for years to come.

“As Local 49 stands right now we are at our highest membership numbers that we’ve had in decades – totaling more than 13,500 members -- and there are no signs of our membership slowing down,” said Local 49 Business Manager Glen Johnson. “Our members are some of the most hard-working, dedicated and talented people that I know, and with them I am certain Local 49 will last another 90 years and beyond.”

Get email updates from Local 49

Local 49 will be unveiling several 90th Anniversary stories, videos and much more. Stay tuned to local49.org and facebook.com/local49 for more information.

June 9, 2017

Recap of MN Legislative Session from Local 49 Political and Special Projects Director Jason George

Recap of MN Legislative Session from Local 49 Political and Special Projects Director Jason George

The 2017 session of the Minnesota Legislature has concluded, well, mostly. The Governor has signed all of the state budget bills and the tax bill, but is holding out funding for the staff of the Legislature in an attempt to get them back to the negotiating table over a few controversial policy items that he doesn’t like. I want to make clear to members, none of the fighting you will hear about for the next few weeks has anything to do with the Transportation or Bonding bills, these bills are signed and official and are law. These bills will not be impacted by anything that happens from here out with the Governor and the Legislature.

The transportation bill will direct 300 million from existing transportation related taxes to transportation funding for the next two years. This money will continue to be dedicated by law going forward and will increase over time. We are going to work to put this sales tax money on the ballot to dedicate it in the Minnesota Constitution permanently for transportation funding. This is the largest increase in transportation funding since 2008 when the gas tax was raised. If we are successful at dedicating this money permanently via the Constitution this will largely solve our transportation funding gap for the long term.  In addition to the sales tax money we secured, there will also be about a billion dollars in trunk highway bonding that will happen in the next 4 years. There are other smaller pools of money that were raised for transportation infrastructure also. In addition and separate from all of this a $990 million bonding bill was passed, most of this money is earmarked for transportation and other infrastructure projects that 49ers build.

Altogether, more than $3 billion of new money will be pumped into infrastructure jobs in the next 4 years. This is much needed investment for our state, and will lead to increased job opportunities for 49ers from all sectors of our union. Public sector, highway heavy, builders, and shop members will benefit from this new money.

On the public sector side, there were not a lot of changes for our members. The pension bill that would have impacted PERA was vetoed, there will be no changes to PERA this year. There were some good and bad things in the bill that was sent to the Governor, but it was ultimately caught up in politics surrounding efforts at the city level to raise the minimum wage and paid sick time.

On other key policy items that we are always on guard for – there were no changes to the state prevailing wage laws at all. Prevailing wage changes were proposed briefly at the beginning of session, but we worked with our republican and democratic allies to make sure that those wage cutting proposals were not advanced. I’m happy to report that there are a growing number of republicans in Minnesota that do not see any value in weakening our prevailing wage laws. They know, like we know, that attempts to change prevailing wage are nothing more than attempts to lower wages for all construction workers. Right To Work was never even brought up this year at the Capitol. Again republican allies that do not support Right to Work helped make sure this did not advance. We must stay vigilant, as there are forces that are waiting for the opportunity to push this union busting policy.

One policy item we helped pass is money for the building trades helmets to hardhats program. This program helps veterans get direct access to our apprenticeship programs, with this new money Minnesota will be able to hire a coordinator to make sure veterans know about these opportunities in our trades.  This is a great thing for Minnesota veterans, and for our trades.

This was a very contentious session. However we were very successful, in large part because of the relationships that we have taken the time to build with both republicans and democrats. We have educated both sides of the aisle on our issues, and those efforts paid off this year as we were able to work very well in a divided government situation. We will continue to reach out to republicans on our policy issues, we will also continue to educate democrats on the value of infrastructure jobs. We will continue to have the political philosophy that we will support those that support us, from either party.

I want to especially give thanks to Speaker Kurt Daudt, Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and Governor Mark Dayton.  All three of them made transportation infrastructure a priority this session, and worked hard to find a compromise that nobody loved, but that moved Minnesota forward and created jobs for 49ers. Lastly I want to thank Local 49 members. I have never seen the members of Local 49 more engaged politically. Thousands of you sent emails, made phone calls, and attended events to push for transportation infrastructure funding. You truly made all the difference. I hope you all stay engaged, the work is never done.


June 1, 2017

John Korzan

John Korzan

John Korzan of Kimball, South Dakota was a member of Local 49 for nearly 40 years before retiring in 2014. Korzan’s career as an operator has taken him all over the country – even as far as Maui and the big island of Hawaii.

In 1975 Korzan started his career driving truck for Don Jerke Construction in Sioux Falls, and eventually worked his way up to running crane for Jerke Construction until 1996. In 2000, Korzan began working for Mortenson and installed wind turbines all over the country. One of his more memorable projects installing wind turbines was a job that led him to the island of Maui.

“We were installing a wind turbine on top of a mountain, and every piece had to be hauled up this mountain by truck,” Korzan said. “The cells that had to be hauled up were 128,000 pounds.” Korzan recalled that at one point the transmission went out in the truck because the weight of the cells was so heavy. “Eventually we had to use a loader and put a large rock in the bucket and pull up the pieces to install this wind turbine.”

Korzan worked in Maui for six months completing the installation of the wind turbine, and he said what made the job particularly memorable was the time of year he was working. “We were working during whale season so you’d look off the side of this mountain and could see all of the whales come in with their babies,” Korzan said. “The whales looked like big boats coming out of the water.”

Korzan also worked on a three month long project on the big island of Hawaii.

“What happened in Hawaii was a guy boomed his crane out too far and he collapsed the boom so Mortenson sent me out there to put it back together,” he said.

Korzan described another memorable project, which was being a part of the construction of the University of South Dakota Dome.

“Before we installed the steel roof they had an air roof, but it kept tearing so the school decided to put a permanent steel roof on top of the dome,” Korzan said. “The roof is about 100 ft. wide, so one crane wasn’t enough to install the roof. They needed two cranes and then those two cranes would meet in the middle to install the steel roof of the dome,” Korzan said.

Korzan says he’s always been interested operating cranes, and liked the variety of the job. “It’s something different all the time as a crane operator.”

Since retiring three years ago, Korzan says he has one piece of advice for younger members: Stay in the union. “I definitely couldn’t retire if I would have had to pay more for my health insurance, “Korzan said. “I’m fortunate enough where I could afford to retire early because I’ve had continuous service with the union.”

Due to his continuous service with Local 49, Korzan obtained the maximum subsidy off of his health insurance premium. Even though Korzan is grateful for his decision now, he reflected on when work was short in the 1970s.

“A lot of people in the late 1970s took a withdrawal because times were tough, but you got to take the good with the bad and I’m glad I did. That’s what I tell people now is to stay with Local 49,” Korzan said.

Now that Korzan is retired, he enjoys spending his free time with his family, and exploring his hobbies. “My wife and I do a little traveling, and I’ve been buying hot rod cars and fixing them up…I keep busy,” Korzan said with a laugh.

For more stories like John’s visit the Members at Work section at www.local49.org

May 24, 2017

Take Action to Pass MN Transportation Project Funding!

Take Action to Pass MN Transportation Project Funding!

There are 5 weeks left of the Minnesota Legislative session and funding for transportation infrastructure is being negotiated right now by lawmakers. We need you to send a message to your legislators right now.

The message is simple:

They must pass a long term transportation funding bill that the Governor will sign into law. The bill needs to include significant money from existing taxes already paid, some form of new revenue, and adequate funding for metro transit.

We can’t wait any longer – thousands of construction jobs, and needed infrastructure improvements are at stake!

We have made it easy for you, click here to send an email to your legislator. It will take you 2 minutes, and it will make a difference. You can also forward this e-mail to your friends and family, and you can share this on your Facebook and Twitter pages.

To do this you need to complete it yourself first, and then it will prompt you with directions on how to share it. We really encourage you to share this with your friends, family and on your Facebook and Twitter pages.

— Jason George

Legislative and Special Projects Director

April 21, 2017

Fritz Panek

Fritz Panek

Fritz Panek has more than 40 years experience in the construction industry before being brought on part-time as the large heavy equipment instructor at the Operating Engineers Local 49 Training Center. “I can run any piece of equipment when it comes to dirt work,” said Panek.

Fritz Panek - Local49

Panek grew up on a dairy farm, and graduated from high school in 1973. Panek said the day after he graduated he was immediately on a push-cat dozer. “My dad had a little construction company with a couple of dozers and scrapers so I went to work for him, and worked for him for about seven years,” Panek said.

In April of 1980 is when Panek got his first chance to work with a union contractor. “I worked for Blatner where I worked on (Interstate Highway) I35 East on Cedar Avenue, but I also worked all over the country for them.”

In 1988 Panek took a career leap and started his own business with his three brothers. “I felt there was a niche for what I was going to be doing, and I had a gravel pit on my own farm so I didn’t have to buy gravel, which helped me a lot to get started,” he said about starting his own business. “I started out with just a dump truck and a loader, and then later down the line I invested in a crusher, conveyors and excavators,” Panek continued.

Panek eventually sold his business in 2005 to a local contractor, and went into semi-retirement until 2009 when the health insurance market changed, and his wife Mary switched careers. “It was in 2009 when the health insurance market got out of hand when I went back into the union to become an operator,” stated Panek. “Local 49 has way better health insurance than just about anybody; we get everything covered.”

Panek worked for Kuechle Underground out of Kimball, MN for a few years then worked for Landwehr and Hardrives before being presented with the offer of becoming a part time instructor at the Local 49 Training Center. “It’s very rewarding that you get to help people advance in their training and career,” Panek said of the opportunity.

Panek currently teaches large heavy equipment classes, but says his favorite is the loaders. “I have over 35 years of experience with loaders so I like to think I know what I’m talking about,” Panek said with a laugh.

Panek says he stresses to his classes the importance of being involved in the union and knowing the issues that affect them and their work. “I’ve been way more involved than when I was younger, and I do preach about that during my classes,” Panek said. “I keep them up to date with what’s going on with Right to Work issues and stuff on the (Local 49) website.”

Panek also educates members on the importance of knowing about all of the benefits that are available to them and their family. “I talk to them about the insurance and about the health meetings,” said Panek. “I went to my first one in 2010, and I didn’t know half of the stuff we had, so I try to educate them about all of the information.”

Panek particularly encourages the younger members about how being in Local 49 can not only lead you to a good job, but a long-lasting career. “There are always roads that are going to need to be built and structures to put up, so if you’re willing to put in the time and work, this is a great and rewarding career.”

For more stories like Fritz’s visit www.local49training.org

March 28, 2017

IUOE Hail Permit Approval for Keystone XL Pipeline

IUOE Hail Permit Approval for Keystone XL Pipeline

WASHINGTON, DC The following statement was issued today by James T. Callahan, General President of the International Union of Operating Engineers, on the State Department’s permit approval for the Keystone XL Pipeline:

“Finally, the most studied and scrutinized pipeline in history is one step closer to being built. The Operating Engineers applaud issuance of the presidential permit and commend the State Department for finding that critical energy infrastructure projects like Keystone XL are in the national interest.

President Trump has made it clear that modernizing North America’s energy infrastructure is vital work. We agree. Building Keystone XL means creating thousands of skilled construction jobs—jobs that feed families, pay mortgages, send kids to college—that will also benefit the businesses and communities along the route.”

Click here to read the full statement.

March 24, 2017

Eric Richardson

Eric Richardson

Eric Richardson began his next journey as a Pipeline worker on the Dakota Access Pipeline and a member of Local 49 after 24 years of experience in the United States Army. Richardson, who grew up in Wyoming, but now lives in Cloquet, MN, joined the Army in 1987.

“For my first two years in the Army I was stationed in Germany, and then came back to Fort Hood, Texas where I was then deployed to Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm,” Richardson said. After returning to the U.S. Richardson was a part of the counter drug missions between the U.S. and Mexican border. “I was responsible for tracking drugs coming across the border, and then later on I actually went back as a special ops mission planner, and I planned all of those missions,” Richardson said about the drug missions.

In 2004 Richardson was deployed to Iraq where he ran security force for combat support convoys. Richardson returned to the United States for a short time before deploying again to Iraq from 2006-2008. “That was a 15 month deployment, and that was a tough one…I think we lost about 30 some people during that deployment,” Richardson recalled.

When Richardson returned to the states he went to training to become a Sergeant in Fort Jackson, South Carolina and deployed to Afghanistan in 2010-2011. After he completed his mission in Afghanistan, Richardson decided it was time to retire from the military.

From there he used his military experience for his next job as a personal security professional for the United States Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. “We provided diplomatic security for chief personnel in Kabul, Afghanistan, and I did that for nearly five years,” stated Richardson. “I would spend 105 days there, and then return to the U.S. for 35 days…you weren’t living in the best conditions, but it was a step above being deployed in the Army,” he added.

After his time doing security detail, Richardson decided it was time to come home for good, and find a job that is more local. Joe Chastan, the Local 49 Business Agent out of Bagley, MN, helped Richardson find his first job and helped him become a member of Local 49. “Joe gave me an opportunity to be an oiler on the (Dakota Access) Pipeline,” Richardson said of the new opportunity. “I thought it was fantastic and it was interesting to see how that pipe went into the ground,” he continued. “I had a really good business agent, good steward and great foremen up there that taught me a lot.”

Richardson became a member of Local 49 in June 2016, and worked on Spread 7 of the Pipeline, which is located in Williston and Watford, North Dakota. That part of the Pipeline work wrapped up in November 2016.

During the off-season, Richardson said he is taking full advantage of the Operating Engineers Local 49 Training Center. “I took the OSHA 30 class, two pipeline horizontal directional drilling classes, a side boom class, and then I also took the dozer and excavator class,” Richardson said. “I thought the Training Center was great, and the instructors are phenomenal; I can’t say one bad thing about any of the training there,” Richardson continued.

While Richardson hasn’t been a member of Local 49 for very long, he said he is excited about the opportunities Local 49 has already given him. “The union has got great benefits, great opportunities and it’s a way for me to travel around the United States.”

For more stories like Eric’s visit the Members At Work tab on www.local49.org


March 17, 2017

Impact of Prevailing Wage on Military Veterans in Minnesota

Impact of Prevailing Wage on Military Veterans in Minnesota

Minnesota’s Prevailing Wage laws ensure that construction workers get a good days pay for a good days work. Veterans are coming home and getting into construction in big numbers in Minnesota because our area standard wages allow them to raise families. There are some legislators in Minnesota that want to weaken or eliminate prevailing wage laws, which would directly cut the pay of workers and veterans looking to have a middle class career. Find out more about this important issue by looking at the numbers. 

Prevailing wage standards make construction employment more attractive for veterans and

improve economic outcomes for veterans. Minnesota’s prevailing wage law:

• Increases the annual incomes of veteran blue-color construction workers by 7.0 to 10.7 percent;

• Improves employer-provided health coverage for veterans in construction by 11.2 to 14.6 percent;

• Reduces veteran poverty by 23.7 to 31.4 percent for those working in construction; and

• Supports veteran-owned construction firms.

Click here to read the full independent study.

February 23, 2017