Local 49 Political Director Responds to Attack on Hard Working Minnesotans in the New York Times

Local 49 Political Director Responds to Attack on Hard Working Minnesotans in the New York Times


Jason George, Political and Special Projects Director for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, issued the following statement to the media in response to comments in today’s New York Times attacking the hard-working men and women of northeast Minnesota:


“The article in today’s New York Times about the future of mining and the city of Ely, Minn. requires a comment. Specifically, the quotes attributed to Becky Rom and her husband Reid Carron are something that I cannot ignore.

“Danny Forsman drives to the mine in his truck, comes home and watches TV, and he doesn’t know this world exists,” says Becky Rom.

“Resentment is the primary driver of the pro-mining crowd here — they are resentful that other people have come here and been successful while they were sitting around waiting for a big mining company,” Carron told me. “They want somebody to just give them a job so they can all drink beer with their buddies and go four-wheeling and snowmobiling with their buddies, not have to think about anything except punching a clock.”

In my opinion, and in my experience sitting through public hearing after public hearing listening to environmental activists dismiss and belittle construction jobs, the sentiments expressed by Rom and Carron very accurately reflect the way most anti-mining, anti-pipeline, and anti-development groups really feel about the hardworking people of northern Minnesota.

It disgusts me. There is no other way to put it.

Minnesota’s blue-collar workers, the men and women I am proud to fight for, deserve better. Every day they get up at the crack of dawn, go out into the elements and put their training to use working incredibly hard to create a better state for all of us. They make sure we all have the minerals and iron needed to make the products we all use. They are out there making sure we have safe roads to drive on, safe buildings to educate our kids in, and energy to power our society. Every day they are taking great care to do all of this while protecting the environment that we all live in and enjoy.

Only to be thought of by the very people who happily benefit from their hard work as “just sitting around waiting for somebody to give them a job so they can drink beer and not think about anything other than punching a timeclock”.

There is a war on American workers in this country, and that war is bi-partisan. Far right-wing low wage conservatives want to destroy unions so they can pay workers less for hard labor. And far left-wing wealthy environmental elitists like Rom and Carron are only concerned with themselves, perfectly content to have the people who carry their gear to the boundary waters struggle to feed and house a family making 10 bucks an hour.

Enough is enough. The disdain for Minnesota workers, and the belittlement of highly skilled work exhibited by environmental activists and low wage conservatives alike must be rejected by the majority of us. We must stand up, and stand strong for the workers that make our lives better every day.”




October 12, 2017

Local 49 Political Director Wants Member Input on MN Governor Candidates

Local 49 Political Director Wants Member Input on MN Governor Candidates

Local 49 has screened potential candidates for Governor from both political parties. We put together a screening committee that included members from every outstate office in Minnesota, the Minneapolis main hall, and union leadership. We asked tough questions and had good conversations.

It is impossible to have every member of Local 49 participate in a screening process, however we felt it was important to do the best we could to listen to more members input than just the screening committee.  Therefore Jason George, the Local 49 Political Director will be attending the following Local Union meetings to specifically discuss with members the MN Governors race and listen to your input.


Mankato – Thursday, September 28, 2017 a 7:00 PM
Minneapolis – Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at 7:30 PM
St. Cloud – Thursday, October 5, 2017 at 7:00 PM
Virginia – Wednesday, October 4, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Duluth – Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Grand Rapids – Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 7:00 PM
Bagley – Monday, October 9, 2017 at 7:00 PM
Fargo – Thursday, November 2, 2017 at 7:00 PM


He can’t make the Rochester meeting work, but President Johnson will conduct a discussion with members at this meeting on October 26th at 7:00 PM and share the sentiment of the members. Click here for more information on your local union meetings.


The election for Governor in MN in 2018 is critically important for our union and our collective future.  Jobs are at stake.  Prevailing Wage and Right to Work are issues that will be very much impacted by who wins.  We must do all we can to elect a Governor that will listen to and respect the concerns and opinions of Operating Engineers.


We want your input and to know what you think.  Please attend your local union meetings to let Local 49 know how you feel about who we endorse or if we endorse.


September 27, 2017

Attend Enbridge Line 3 Hearings

Attend Enbridge Line 3 Hearings

The future of the Enbridge Line 3 Project is in our hands. If we do not show up and fight we could lose another major job opportunity that would create thousands of jobs for our brothers and sisters and for Northern Minnesota.

Support the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project by attending an Enbridge Line 3 Hearing near you!

Sept. 26, 2017 from 1-4 p.m. or 6-9 p.m.
Ralph Engelstad Arena
525 Brooks Avenue, North Thief River Falls, MN 56701

Sept. 28, 2017 from 1-4 p.m. or 6-9 p.m.
St. Paul Intercontinental Hotel
11 East Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55101

Oct. 10, 2017 from 1-4 p.m. or 6-9 p.m.
IRA Civic Center
1401 NW 3rd Avenue, Grand Rapids, MN 55744

Oct. 11, 2017 from 1-4 p.m. or 6-9 p.m.
East Lake Community Center
36666 State Highway 65, McGregor, MN 56718

Oct. 12, 2017 from 1-4 p.m. or 6-9 p.m.
Grand Casino Hinckley
777 Lady Luck Drive, Hinckley, MN 55037

Oct. 17, 2017 from 1-4 p.m. or 6-9 p.m.
Sanford Center
1111 Event Center Drive NE, Bemidji, MN 56601

Oct. 18, 2017 from 1-4 p.m. or 6-9 p.m.
Duluth Entertainment Convention Center
350 Harbor Drive, Duluth, MN 55802

Oct. 25, 2017 from 1-4 p.m. or 6-9 p.m.
Cross Lake Community Center
14126 Daggett Pine Road, Cross Lake, MN 56442

Oct. 26, 2017 from 1-4 p.m. or 6-9 p.m.
River’s Edge Convention Center
10 Fourth Avenue South, St. Cloud, MN 56301

September 25, 2017

Chuck Kaufman

Chuck Kaufman

Six-year Local 49 member and long-time Iron Range resident, Chuck Kaufman, was one of the more than 100 Local 49 members that worked on the Highway 53 Bridge Relocation project – which is now officially the highest bridge in Minnesota.

Kaufman has been involved in the project since it’s inception in 2015, and will be one of the few workers that remain at the Highway 53 Bridge after the official grand opening today.

Kaufman started as a mechanic with Kiewit Infrastructure Company until he was transitioned into operating forklift. Kaufman credits his continued education at the Local 49 Training Center and a variety of certifications to his integral position on this monumental project.

"Especially when we were pouring the bridge deck up there, you just catch yourself looking down, and looking out and looking at the scenery around, going, 'Jeez, this thing's up in the air,'"

Read Chuck's Quote in this story on MPR.org →

 'Engineering marvel': New bridge brings excitement to the Iron Range

"Especially when we were pouring the bridge deck up there, you just catch yourself looking down, and looking out and looking at the scenery around, going, 'Jeez, this thing's up in the air,'"

Read Chuck's Quote in this story on MPR.org →

 'Engineering marvel': New bridge brings excitement to the Iron Range

“I started wrenching in the shop for Kiewit, but always kept my forklift card up to date. When work in the shop started to slow down they moved me to forklift and I’ve worked the forklift ever since,” Kaufman said.

As a forklift operator Kaufman loaded and unloaded various materials that were used to build the bridge, while also working on a few specialty projects. Throughout the project, Kaufman operated a Bidwell roller, which smoothed down the concrete on each side of the bridge.

“There’s a lot to watch when operating a Bidwell roller, because you have to pay attention to the pitch (angle) of the slope in the road and ensure it’s right. While doing this you must also keep an eye out for the laborers and cement finishers who are working on it with you,” Kaufman said.

Kaufman was also responsible for setting the barrier fence across the bridge. This particular job included installing the last ornamental rail to go on the bridge with the ironworkers.

“We had to put up a bridge-length fence on the side of the bike path so it provides protection for walkers, snowmobiles and bikers,” Kaufman said.

All in all, Kaufman affirms the project ran smoothly from start to finish, but maintained a very fast pace.

“The project had a much faster pace than many of the projects I have worked on, but from my perspective the planning was done very carefully and efficiently,” Kaufman said. “The Highway 53 Bridge Relocation project was very fun to work on and I wish it didn’t have to end so soon.”

For the next month, Kaufman will continue to work as part of the loading and packing up crew at the Highway 53 Bridge.


For more stories like Chuck’s visit www.local49.org

September 15, 2017

Local 49 responds to MN Dept. of Commerce comments on Line 3 Replacement

Local 49 responds to MN Dept. of Commerce comments on Line 3 Replacement

Yesterday the MN Department of Commerce (MNDOC) posted comments to the record at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) questioning the need for the Line 3 replacement project. MNDOC said that in their opinion the best solution was for Enbridge to shut down the existing Line 3 and not to replace it at all.

We strongly disagree. Flint Hills and other refineries testified on the record that they need the oil to supply our region, and in fact agreements are already in place for purchase of the product. That clearly demonstrates the need. To suggest that we can simply stop using the oil, and that we should just shut down Line 3 is a ridiculous conclusion that defies basic common sense.

Most public officials, including Governor Dayton and former President Obama, have said that while we transition to a clean energy economy, oil will continue to be necessary to bridge the gap. Governor Dayton has said publicly he supports replacement of Line 3 for public safety reasons; how the agency that he directs could contradict his clearly stated objective is beyond understanding.

Replacing Line 3 is only controversial to radical environmental extremists. Moving oil in the safest possible way should be the priority of the MNDOC, not bowing to protestors demands.

“Line 3 is 60 years old, a company wants to spend more than a billion dollars of private money to construct a brand new state of the art replacement, and the MN DOC says no thanks we don’t need it. I don’t even know what to say, it makes absolutely no sense to me, or the hundreds of operating engineers that are hoping to further their careers and feed their families building this needed project for our state”, said Jason George, Local 49 Political Director.

The regulatory process is not over. These are just comments from MN DOC. The Governor has said he is reserving judgment until the record is complete. Now more than ever it is critical that 49ers attend the upcoming public hearings to let the administrative law judge who will make the final recommendations to the PUC know that this project is needed, that the good paying jobs it will create in northern Minnesota are needed, and it is just plain common sense to replace an aging pipeline with a new one.

You can find hearing locations here, Local 49 Political Director, Jason George, will be issuing an email later this week as well, we hope to see you at a hearing. We will continue to do all we can to join with local communities, local business leaders, local landowners, and all reasonable people to support this important project.


September 12, 2017

Local 49 Donates to Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief

Local 49 Donates to Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief

International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 has donated $5,000 to Hurricane Harvey disaster relief through the Operating Engineers National Charity Fund. In addition, during the month of September at all Local 49 union meetings we will be collecting donations for IUOE members in Local 178 in Fort Worth and Local 450 in the Dayton Texas area.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by Hurricane Harvey, including our fellow Operating Engineers and their families,” said Glen Johnson, Business Manager of IUOE Local 49. “As Operating Engineers we have a remarkable history of standing together and supporting each other at all times, but especially in times of need. It is Local 49’s sincere hope that this contribution will help rebuilding efforts and those most in need.”

September 6, 2017

Local 49 Condemns Vandalism on Enbridge Line 3 Project

Local 49 Condemns Vandalism on Enbridge Line 3 Project

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 released a statement to the media speaking out against the protester vandalism that occurred on the Enbridge Line 3 Project today in Douglas County, Wisconsin.

Below is an excerpt from the release:

“The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 is disturbed to learn that protesters trespassed on a pipeline construction right-of-way today and jumped onto a working piece of equipment in an act of vandalism. This is unsafe and unacceptable for everyone involved, especially the workers and contractors on site doing the work. While we respect the right of people to protest, that does not extend to trespassing on private land, damaging equipment, and exhibiting violent behavior toward a project that is legally permitted and is intended to improve safety.”

Click here to read the full statement issued to the media. 


August 25, 2017

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.”

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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