Union Meetings in April Canceled – MN HH Contract Negotiations Update

Union Meetings in April Canceled – MN HH Contract Negotiations Update

Local 49 members,

The shelter in place order for Minnesota extends through the first half of April currently, and there is the possibility that it will go longer. As of right now, there is no shelter in place order in North or South Dakota, but that is definitely a possibility and probably likely in some form.

General President James Callahan has given Business Managers the authority to cancel or postpone all union meetings, including business meetings, during this crisis. In an abundance of caution, and because union meetings aren’t absolutely necessary given the General President’s recent determination, I am canceling all Local 49 union meetings in our jurisdiction for April.

Most other IUOE Locals are doing the same. The executive board will meet in April via phone conference and will pass basic bills and keep minutes. Those will be posted in the members-only section of the website shortly after that meeting.

These are challenging times as you know, and we are doing the best we can to navigate them while we continue to provide you service and enforce our agreements. We ask for your trust and understanding right now. We all need to work together while we get through this situation.

Business Agents are still on the job, and union halls are still open to answer questions over the phone and point members in the right direction for assistance. Members are largely still working with the exemption for construction in Minnesota. If members feel unsafe on the job because contractors aren’t doing enough to follow the safety protocols, call your Business Agent, and we will take care of it. For the most part, we are hearing from members that things are running safely, but in the few instances where there were problems, we were there to help members address them.

Continue to check out the new and past updates Local 49’s COVID-19 page. On it, you will find all the resources you need and the latest information. We also continue to negotiate the MN Highway Heavy agreement, we have had one meeting so far, with another one tentatively scheduled for Friday of this week. You can find an update on this in the members-only section of the website here. 

Hang in there, work safe, follow the directions from the government, and we will all get through this and come out stronger than ever.

 

Jason George

Business Manager

March 31, 2020

Federal Legislation Summary and Local 49 Training Center News

Federal Legislation Summary and Local 49 Training Center News

Local 49 Members,

There are two important updates to share today.

  1. Congress has passed a couple pieces of important legislation to help Americans deal with the repercussions of the coronavirus.
  • North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), of which IUOE is a member of, has put together a comprehensive summary of the impacts of this legislation for tradesmen and women. If you are wondering about unemployment insurance, direct cash payments, sick leave, and other issues, this is the best place to find out what is going on and get answers. Click here to view the comprehensive summary by NABTU. 

 

      2. The Local 49 Training Center put out the following update regarding the training schedule:

  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are sorry to announce that all classes have been canceled through the end of April. If your MSHA expires in March, the federal MSHA office is granting you a grace period during the time the government is operating under the President’s emergency declaration. Scheduling safety classes will be a priority upon reopening. We are exploring online options and will notify you of any updates. Stay safe!

 

Respectfully,

Jason George

Business Manager

 

March 27, 2020

Local 49 Update to Members on MN Governor’s Executive Order

Local 49 Update to Members on MN Governor’s Executive Order

Members,

Today Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued a stay at home executive order. This order goes into effect Friday, March 27, at 11:59 pm and goes through Friday, April 10, at 5 pm. You can read the entire executive order here. It lays out clearly what people are allowed and not allowed to do.

I can report that the Governor’s executive order has broadly exempted construction workers and that, for the most part, 49ers will stay on the job continuing to provide the critical services that our state needs.

Our members are ready to answer the call of duty and are prepared to stay on the job to continue to perform their critical work in a way that protects themselves and the public and follows CDC health guidelines. There will be many questions about what jobs are included in the exemption, and this will be confusing, chaotic, and could evolve. But for now, here is our initial read of the types of work and workers that will be exempted from this stay at home order.

Our initial read of the exemptions for construction workers is:

  • Workers in skilled trades related to construction of all kinds 
  • Operating Engineers are specifically listed as a critical trade
  • Workers engaged in roadway construction, maintenance, and utility projects
  • Workers performing public works construction, including the construction of critical or strategic infrastructure
  • Construction materials suppliers and workers providing services necessary to maintain construction materials sources
  • Workers supporting building code enforcement
  • Workers performing any construction required in response to COVID-19, including health care facilities and essential businesses and serves
  • Construction required for emergency repairs and safety
  • Critical Labor Functions: Includes labor union essential functions, including health and welfare funds and monitoring safety of members
  • Public works/wastewater government workers
  • Employers servicing equipment necessary for any of these critical tasks

 

Form you should carry that tells authorities you are exempt from the stay at home order

Members can print off this form on our letterhead and show this to law enforcement if you get questioned about being out.

Click here to download and print the form 

 

Changes to Local 49 Offices in MN

  • All Local 49 administrative staff that work in Minnesota offices will be sent home during this two-week stay at home order – we will pay them as normal for these two weeks
  • Because our administrative staff are the ones responsible for collecting dues, we will suspend all monthly window dues collection for the two week period
  • Working dues and dues checkoff will still come in from employers like normal, so this will not be impacted
  • No one will be suspended during this two week period – we are simply freezing things in time
  • This is something that we can do that will cause minimal disruption and will allow those of our staff that work in office settings to stay home to help do our part
  • We will begin collecting window monthly dues again on April 13 – we will do so even if the stay at home order is extended
  • Business Agents will be at all Minnesota offices to answer basic questions over the phone, and dispatch will be open for phone calls and dispatching like they are now
  • Business Agents are still on the job as they are now – they won’t be stopping randomly to check jobs, but they are available to help you via phone/e-mail and will come out to your site if there are specific problems that require that
  • Local 49 Offices will still remain closed to all foot traffic – calls only
  • Wilson McShane offices will remain open, and all health fund operations are as normal

 

Central Pension Fund Update

  • The CPF has had to close down their office because one of their employees was in direct contact with someone who has the coronavirus
  • You can read their statement here about how that is going to impact operations, and they have an FAQ that you can read that is very helpful
  • The bottom line for retirees is you will be getting your money monthly like normal, nothing changes
  • But if you were planning on sending in your paperwork to retire soon check the website to see if there are any impacts to the timing of processing paperwork

 

Congressional/State Action

Congressional action is imminent on an aid package for workers and businesses. It will likely include direct cash payments to workers, and an extension of federal unemployment.

The state of Minnesota Legislature will be meeting tomorrow to pass some coronavirus related items.

We will keep you posted on these developments as they occur.

 

Rules for Employers

  • Our Business Agents continue to be in constant contact with employers regarding how this situation is being handled in the workplace
  • We are gathering information on how the new federal law changes that are coming anytime now will impact employers and workers, and our Business Agents will have the latest information
  • If any member has any concerns about their workplace regarding safety or work rules your employer is implementing call your Business Agent – they are on the job

 

MN Highway Heavy Negotiations Update

We are meeting for the first time to exchange proposals tomorrow, March 26. We are meeting virtually, not in person, because of the ongoing coronavirus situation and the ban on large groups. This will be a challenge, but we will adapt. As things progress, I will have more updates, but I wanted to let members know that negotiations are getting started. The agreement doesn’t expire until May 1. We will keep you posted in the members-only page throughout these negotiations.

 

Lastly

Continue to follow this website, our Facebook page, and your e-mail for updates as this is a rapidly changing situation. I want to tell you I’m proud of all of you and our staff for how we are handling this challenge. 49ers are coming together to get through this. Members have been patient with us as we do the best we can to adapt. Local 49 Business Agents and administrative staff have done an outstanding job putting the membership first and making sure that we continue to serve you through this crisis.

 

There is an old saying – tough times don’t last, tough people do – that’s who we are as 49ers, and I do not doubt that we will come out of this crisis stronger than ever. Hang in there, take care of each other, do your part to help slow this virus, and keep up to date on the latest information.

 

Respectfully,

 

Jason George

Business Manager

 

March 25, 2020

Health Fund Update, Unemployment Guidelines, Training Center Update, and More

Health Fund Update, Unemployment Guidelines, Training Center Update, and More

Updated: Friday, March 20, 2020 at 7:45 p.m. 

Please view the following member communications in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic. Please check back frequently as we will continue to update this page and like us on Facebook for immediate updates.

Training Center Suspension

  • The International Training Center in Crosby, Texas, is closed until April 20, 2020. All scheduled classes and registration are suspended until further notice. 
  • The Training Center in Hinckley has suspended the training schedule/operations. Members scheduled for classes will be notified, and as of now, the training schedule is set to resume on March 30, but please pay attention to our e-mails and check back to this page for updates as that could change. 

Union Meetings/Activities

  • On March 16, 2020, we announced all Local 49 area union meetings in our jurisdiction would be suspended in March. We will send out another communication toward the end of this month about our decision for April union meetings.
  • On March 16, 2020, we announced that all Local 49 Union Halls would be closed to in-person traffic, but we are open for business via telephone and e-mail. Dues can be paid by phone or mail only right now.
  • On March 18, 2020, we held a business only union meeting in Minneapolis – members were advised to stay away, and we thank them for listening. We were able to pass the executive board business to pay the bills and adjourned within 15 minutes – meeting minutes will be posted next week in the members-only section of the website so members can see what occurred. 
  • Lobby day is canceled this year. Please contact Kipp Hanson at 612-391-7176 for any questions.
  • Business agents will not be stopping on job sites randomly, but they are available via telephone and e-mail and will stop out if there are specific issues to address. Business agents are in contact with employers and members daily to try to help deal with this situation and resolve any problems. 
  • On March 20, 2020, a letter was sent to all shop and public employers regarding work rule changes related to the coronavirus. We will continue to work with employers to ensure our contracts are followed and any changes related to coronavirus are worked on jointly. 
  • We have been in constant communication with construction contractors and owners at all levels about working conditions in construction, and we will update all members with any new information. We are in touch with government officials and strongly advocating keeping construction projects going as we feel that our work can continue while adhering to federal safety guidelines.

Health Fund

The Board of Trustees met via conference call on March 20, 2020 to discuss the developing COVID-19 crisis. The Trustees recognize that this is a time of uncertainty and that providing strong health care coverage to those covered by the Operating Engineers Local 49 Health Plan is more crucial than ever. Therefore, the Board is pleased to announce the following changes:

Continued Eligibility for All Participants Covered in March 2020

The Trustees have acted for the benefit of all individuals who have current coverage. If you are working, your employer will continue to make contributions to the Plan on your behalf, and you may maintain eligibility because of those contributions. However, whether you are working or laid off if contributions are insufficient to provide coverage and your hour bank has been exhausted, the Plan will provide coverage to you in April and May 2020 at no cost.

COVID-19 Testing Charges Covered at 100%

Charges related to testing for the COVID-19 virus incurred on or after March 1, 2020, will be covered at 100%, meaning that they will not be subject to any deductibles or co-payment requirements of the Plan. 

Telephone Consultations with Physicians and Other Medical Providers Covered from March 1, 2020, through September 30, 2020

The Plan normally does not cover telephone consultations with your doctor, except if the call is made through the Doctor on Demand program. Because of the current health care crisis, many clinics and other health care providers prefer that those seeking treatment call in rather than visit in person. The Plan has been amended, temporarily, to provide that charges for telephone consultations will be covered through September 30, 2020, so long as the charges would otherwise be covered if made as part of an office visit to a clinic or physician. We urge you to visit www.DoctoronDemand.com for convenient access to Board-certified physicians where visits are available 24/7, and with a $0 co-payment. Doctor on Demand even has a free COVID-19 self-assessment tool you can use if you or a family member is concerned. Visit www.doctorondemand.com/coronavirus or download the Doctor on Demand app today.

The Trustees hope that these changes made life a little less worrisome for you and your families. Watch your mail in the coming days for more details on these changes to your Plan, and visit www.health49.org for the latest updates on the Plan. 

The Health Fund has also released guidance regarding COVID-19 and your Pharmacy Benefits for Active and Pre-Medicare Retiree Participants. Click here to read more. 

Unemployment

Minnesota

The Governor signed executive order 20-05 related to unemployment insurance, which will make it easier to access unemployment to benefits for workers. The order waives the week-long waiting requirement as well as the requirement to search for work. The impacts take effect if the worker: 

· Has COVID-19

· Is in risk of getting COVID-19

· An employer tells them not to come to work because someone else has COVID-19, 

· Workers cannot get childcare or other accommodation to take care of school-aged children

· A health professional says they cannot work because of COVID-19.

The executive order doesn’t extend the length of time a person can collect benefits, and it doesn’t apply if workers choose not to go to work. It’s important to know that you do not have to be unemployed to collect UI. If you have had your hours dramatically reduced because of COVID-19, you should apply for UI, and state that the reason is due to COVID-19. 

Be advised that the UI system is taking calls and online applications at an incredible volume and that it may take some time for applications to be processed. Please file your claim online, only resort to applying over the phone if you do not have access to the internet.  

Click here for more information

North Dakota

On March 20, 2020, Gov. Doug Burgum signed three executive orders to reduce regulatory burdens and improve services for North Dakota citizens to help them through the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

Among the actions taken on March 20:

  • One executive order issued today requires immediate changes to the unemployment insurance process – expanding eligibility, making it easier for workers to file claims and allowing payments to be issued more quickly. Burgum noted the state saw a sharp increase in unemployment claims this week, with 600 claims filed Wednesday and 1,600 claims filed Thursday, compared with 418 claims filed during all of last week. More information will be available on the Department of Commerce’s new webpage for COVID-19 business and employer resources.
  • Burgum also ordered state agencies to identify by 5 p.m. Tuesday any state laws, rules or regulations that hinder or delay their ability to render maximum assistance or continue to deliver essential services to citizens during the COVID-19 crisis. State elected officials and other executive branch offices were invited to do the same.

The same executive order requires law enforcement agencies and private sector businesses to recognize any North Dakota driver’s license or motor vehicle registration that expired on or after March 1, 2020, as valid and current as long as the executive order is in effect.

  • An executive order issued Thursday was amended today to allow for expanded tele-health services in North Dakota as residents practice social distancing and medical facilities try to limit in-person visits to slow the spread of COVID-19. Burgum thanked Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread for his work to expand which telehealth services can be reimbursed.

The order also adds medical imaging and radiation therapy professionals to the list of health care and behavioral health workers who can work in North Dakota if they’re appropriately licensed in another state, to ensure North Dakota has enough health care workers if the COVID-19 crisis escalates.

The order will remain in effect for the duration of the state of emergency declared by the governor on March 13 in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Burgum also highlighted that North Dakota has been approved for businesses to begin submitting applications for disaster assistance loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA). More information is available on the Commerce website or by going directly to the SBA website at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/

South Dakota 

The only moratorium on shut-offs that’s been announced is Mid Continent Communications, which is a statewide internet and phone provider, and Xcel Energy, which is primarily based in southeast South Dakota. Governor Noem has been holding press conferences almost daily and using social media to give updates. If there are other unemployment benefits, utilities, or government-related changes due to COVID-19, we will pass them along immediately.  

Click here for more information

If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact Kipp Hanson at 612-391-7176.

Work stoppages

  • As of March 20, 2020, there has been no government order to halt construction projects in our jurisdiction. We will keep you posted if that changes. We are advocating every day to keep work going.
  • Shops and public sector employers are mostly remaining open, with only a few closings reported. Check with your business agent on specific workplace policies related to coronavirus control. We are in constant contact with all the employers working through any work policy changes.
  • We will let you know as soon as we hear more – things are moving rapidly at the federal level on legislation to help workers impacted, and we will keep you posted. 

Care for Children of Families of Emergency Workers

Under the Governor’s Executive Order 20-02, free school age care for the children of emergency workers (including providers of healthcare, emergency medical services, long-term and post-acute care; law enforcement personnel; personnel providing correctional services; public health employees; firefighters and other first responders; and court personnel) was outlined. The orders directed schools to provide care to, at a minimum, district-enrolled students aged 12 and under.

Essential Tier 2 Workers

Beyond the emergency workers listed in the Governor’s Executive Order, there are other critical workers that are absolutely necessary for districts to consider. Care for children of educators, gas and electric utility workers, food distribution personnel, water treatment staff, and others outlined below is essential to ensuring the public continues to receive these vital services.

Districts should make every effort to provide care for school-age children of workers in the areas below, if they are able to do so while adhering to the Minnesota Department of Health’s social distancing guidelines.

Water Treatment/Wastewater

  • Water Treatment Plant Operators
  • Drinking water distribution system maintenance workers
  • Safe drinking water delivery personnel
  • Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators
  • Storm and sanitary sewer system maintenance workers

Day-to-Day Operations for Gas and Electric Utilities

  • Electric utility lineworkers, substation technicians, meter technicians, dispatchers, power plant operators
  • Operations managers and supervisors
  • Fleet and maintenance technicians
  • Transmission and distribution engineers and operators
  • Construction coordinators and technicians
  • Fuel technicians
  • Relay coordinators
  • Control room/center operators
  • Cybersecurity related information technology personnel
  • Gas safety personnel
  • Gas utility operations personnel
  • Water system operators, water treatment plant operators
  • Wastewater system operators, wastewater treatment plant operators
  • Managers with key responsibility for customer and community communications and response

Emergency Response for Gas and Electric Utilities

  • Damage assessment personnel
  • Engineers
  • Safety personnel
  • Communications personnel
  • Mutual aid crews from other utilities

Public Works

  • City fleet (emergency equipment, fire trucks, police vehicles, etc.) maintenance workers
  • Traffic signal system maintenance workers
  • Emergency repair workers for bridges, water and sewer main breaks, and other emergent issues
  • Administrative support personnel that ensure OSHA safety requirements and field support for operations
  • Snowplow drivers

Solid Waste Management (waste, recyclable/organics)

  • Collection, transfer trailer truck drivers and their fleet maintenance crews
  • Transfer stations, landfills, resource recovery, recycling and organics facility operations staff
  • Heavy equipment operators, facility operators (e.g. scale house operator, loader operator, line operators, boiler operator)
  • Environmental systems (e.g. gas and leachate management, pollution control equipment)

Additional Resources

 

March 20, 2020

Important Message from Business Manager Jason George on Local 49 Response to Coronavirus Situation

Important Message from Business Manager Jason George on Local 49 Response to Coronavirus Situation

All of us are dealing with the situation related to the Corona Virus. Last week we put plans in place for a phased response as conditions and guidance from the health department changed. We sent a note last week implementing phase 1 of our plan. This weekend things have changed, and new recommendations were released from the Centers for Disease Control and the MN Department of Health calling for increased restrictions of group meetings.

In keeping with our plans to do all that we can to help slow the spread of the virus and keep you and our staff safe, we are moving ahead with phase 2 of our plan. We are going to take action to limit meetings, gatherings, and interactions as recommended by the health care professionals.

Here is what we are doing:

  • The Training Center in Hinckley has suspended the training schedule/operations for two weeks effective today – members scheduled for classes will be notified – as of now the training schedule is set to resume on March 30th but please pay attention to our emails and be checking our website in case that changes.
  • The Minneapolis Union meeting on Wednesday March 18th will take place, but with the following restrictions:
    • The meeting will only consist of executive board business, paying the bills.
    • All other reports and business will be suspended. There will be no drawings either.
    • We expect the meeting to last 10 minutes to conduct routine financial business and then adjourn.
    • Members are encouraged NOT to attend; we will have some BA’s on hand to help move the business, but we need to keep the gathering small as recommended by the health professionals.
    • We will take minutes of this meeting, and they will be posted as soon as possible in the members only section of the website so members can see what official business was done.
    • Limiting the meeting length and attendance will help keep people safe, and other trades and IUOE Locals are also taking similar precautions. This shortened meeting is within the rules set out in the bylaws.
  • All other Local 49 area union meetings in our jurisdiction are suspended in March – we will send out another communication toward the end of this month about April, so pay attention to our emails and our website.
  • Local 49 will be open for business via phone and email only – all walk up service will be suspended – please do not stop by the union halls for business, you will need to call to pay your dues or for any other business you have – we will let you know when this changes and things are back to normal.
  • Administrative staff will be working and will be answering phones – we are simply limiting in person contact to protect them and you.
  • BA’s will be working as well, and you should call them as normal with any issues. BA’s will most likely not be in the union hall so don’t stop in there to see them, no one will be admitted.
  • If you have proposal meetings, contract votes or other business check with your BA on how those meetings will be handled.
  • If you have questions about what your workplace is doing about this, members should ask their employers – if there are concerns or problems call your business agent and we will help address
  • North Dakota members should go to this website to learn more: https://www.health.nd.gov/diseases-conditions/coronavirus
  • South Dakota members should go to this website to learn more: https://doh.sd.gov/news/Coronavirus.aspx
  • Minnesota members should check out the MN Building Trades website which has gathered contact info for all the relevant state agencies:  https://mntrades.org/covid-19-resources/

This is an evolving situation, but we are prepared with plans in place. We will follow the guidance of public health agencies and do our part to help slow the spread of the virus to help protect those most vulnerable. We will get through it and this too shall pass. Please understand we are trying to do the right thing to protect members, families, and staff. We ask for your patience as we work through this together. As of today, we are not hearing of any jobsite closures or layoffs and we hope that remains the case. We are prepared if those things start occurring.

Please continue to stay informed by following our emails and website.

Respectfully,

Jason George

Business Manager

March 16, 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

Local 49 has been continuously monitoring all ongoing developments and updates relating to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.  The health, safety, and well-being of all Local 49 members, employees, and their families is our primary concern, and as such, we are dedicated to taking all reasonable and necessary measures to support and protect you.

We will continue to vigilantly monitor and evaluate this situation on a daily basis. In the event that new and/or updated recommendations we will post changes to our policy on the website and email it, so please make sure to check these regularly.

Here is what to know now:

  • All training classes and/or regular operations at the International Training and Education Center (“ITEC”) in Texas will be temporarily suspended, effective at the close of business on Friday, March 13, 2020, to allow for the entire premises to be thoroughly cleaned.  Barring extenuating circumstances, the ITEC will reopen and all training classes and regular operations will resume on Monday, March 30, 2020.
  • Any travel arrangements booked by the IUOE Travel Coordinators for flights occurring during the period of March 14th through March 30th will be canceled and/or rebooked accordingly.  No further action on members’ part is required with respect to any flights that were scheduled to take place during this time period.
  • Local 49 Training Schedule in Hinckley will go on as scheduled as of today – the MN Department of Health has not as of right now advised canceling all group meetings. This could change so you want to stay vigilant. If any member has symptoms they should not go to training, and they will be refunded in full. Use your judgment, and be cautious.
  • As of right now, all union meetings and activities will go on as scheduled – again – the MN Department of Health as of right now has not advised the canceling of group meetings.
  • If you are sick or have any symptoms of the virus please do not attend union meetings and do not come to our offices – again use your judgment, be cautious and be mindful of others.
  • If members have questions about what is happening in their own workplaces they should contact their employers, and if they run into problems, call their business agent.

At this stage of the outbreak in the United States, it is best to stay informed and be prepared. Please be advised that important information related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) has been published by the CDC and may be found on their website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

For information about handwashing, see CDC’s Handwashing.  For travelers, please see CDC specific guidance for travelers.

This is a rapidly developing situation, we might need to cancel events or meetings or activities on short notice – please pay attention to your emails and our website for the latest information. We are taking this situation seriously, we recommend you stay informed. Use your common sense and stay informed.

Respectfully,

Jason George
Business Manager

March 12, 2020