Member Story: Second Generation Crane Operator James Halle. Jr.

Member Story: Second Generation Crane Operator James Halle. Jr.

Second generation Local 49 member, James Halle Jr. from New Hope, Minnesota, began his training as a crane operator learning from the best – his father. Halle’s father was a member of Local 49 and a crane operator for 40 years.

“My dad would take me to job sites on weekends, and I was always around cranes so getting into the industry was a natural transition for me,” Halle said.

Halle didn’t always think he would be a crane operator. After graduating high school he went to college to study law enforcement, but quickly realized he belonged back in the seat.

James Halle Jr. Operating on the Washington Ave. Project in Minneapolis

“I always had the natural skill of a crane operator, and I knew a lot of the people in the industry,” he said. “I bounced around a couple companies in my younger years, and built up my own name separate from my dad.”

“A lot of people had high expectations of me to produce good work right off the bat because of my dad,” he added.

Now with 22 years of experience as a crane operator, Halle has worked on major projects such as the Xcel Energy Center, the DECK Center in Duluth, Target Field, and U.S. Bank Stadium.

“I actually got to work with my dad when they were building the Xcel Energy Center so that was a great experience that I’ll never forget,” he said.

Halle said he loves being able to drive anywhere in Minnesota and knowing that he helped build such monumental structures.

“It’s nice to be able to tell my twin boys, ‘Hey look I worked here, and they get see these huge structures that I was a part of creating,” he said.

Halle also has experience on other type of projects and operating different types of cranes. Working for Northwest Tower Crane he was a part of many structural steel jobs such as the new Target office operating a crawler crane and has worked on projects operating a hydro crane. He also has traveled throughout North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa on several wind turbine projects.

“Working on wind towers can be difficult because sometimes you’re getting into these older friction cranes, and you don’t have electronics to tell you how close you are so you have to do the work by feel,” Halle explained. “Your job is also based on how windy it is, because if it’s too windy you can’t work.

Halle continued to explain that with hydro crane you have to be gentle with it because they can move quick, and are slightly more touchy than other types of cranes.

Halle is currently working on the Washington Avenue project in Minneapolis for Frana Companies operating a tower crane. He said that operating a tower crane is a completely different animal.

“I’m taking everything I’ve learned for the past 20 years and pushing it to the side, because sitting in a crane 100 feet off the ground swaying back and forth is so different, but I love it,” he said. “Some days you can be busy all day long and other days you’re just sitting there.”

“You’re also the main crane on the job and you have other trades calling on you,” Halle added. “Tower crane operators are the first ones on the job site, because you have to climb up early in the morning and you’re the last one on the job.”

Halle said that the key to being a crane operator is to never stop learning, and to always pass the knowledge on.

“When I have an oiler that’s new I like teaching them, and until they get in the seat and run the crane they’re not going to learn,” he said. “Pass along the knowledge from the previous generation to the new generation.”

He encourages the younger generation to begin a career as a heavy equipment operator and stresses that going to college isn’t the only option.

“Two years out of high school I made $200,000 and the other kids I graduated with are in debt $200,000 with a four year degree and don’t have a job to show for it,” he said.

Halle says that a career as a crane operator can be stressful, but if you like to constantly be on the go and have each day be different than being a crane operator would be a perfect fit.

“I grew up playing in the sand box, and I’m still playing in the sand box but the toys got bigger and the sand box got bigger,” he said with a laugh

For more stories like James’ visit


March 13, 2019

Order Your Local 49 Gear Online

Order Your Local 49 Gear Online

Order your USA/Union made Local 49 gear online! Free shipping on all orders!

There are a variety of sizes and styles for men and women, and each item can be customized with different Local 49 logos. More clothing items will be added soon!  Click here to order your Local 49 gear now!

See an item we don’t offer, but think we should? Submit your clothing ideas here.

Items cannot be returned if a logo is added to a clothing item. Local 49 is not responsible for any order or shipment errors. Contact Union House for additional questions or concerns at 651-462-7710 or e-mail at Orders placed online normally filled and shipped within ten workdays, delays in shipping due to clothing availability may occur. 

Here are examples of some of the clothing items available. Click here to view more!

February 28, 2019

RSVP to Local 49 Lobby Day

RSVP to Local 49 Lobby Day

Lobby Day will be on Wednesday April 3, 2019 from 9:30 a.m. – 4:15 p.m.

Every member that attends will receive a Local 49 embroidered pullover jacket

CLICK HERE TO RSVP! You Must RSVP by March 29, 2019.

Lobby Day Agenda

9:30 – 10 am: Arrive at Union Hall.
10:00 – 10:45 am: Short introduction and lunch.
10:45 am: Board busses to Capitol.
11:30 am – 3:00 pm: Meet with your legislators (appointments are arranged for you ahead of time).
3:30 – 4 pm: Rally in the Capitol’s Rotunda.
4:15 pm: Busses depart from the Capitol.

Click here for more information

February 28, 2019

Local 49 Supports Gov. Walz’s Bold Transportation Infrastructure Plan

Local 49 Supports Gov. Walz’s Bold Transportation Infrastructure Plan

Today is a historic moment and opportunity for the State of Minnesota. Governor Walz has put forward a budget that invests the money required to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure of our state. This effort will benefit businesses and local communities throughout Minnesota, as well as create thousands of good paying Union construction jobs for families in every corner of our state.

Raising the gasoline tax, tab fees, and motor vehicle sales tax are the only way to put new money into the system that is 100% guaranteed to be used to build infrastructure. The proposed increases are responsible, reasonable, and necessary if we are going to really and finally rebuild our state. We believe taxpayers are willing to pay more to ensure that they have safe roads to travel on, our bridges don’t collapse, and that our people can move around freely in our transit systems.

Governor Walz is leading on this issue. He has put forward an honest proposal, one that doesn’t pretend we can fix our infrastructure without spending money to do so. We stand behind him in this effort, and will be calling on Legislators from both Chambers to find a way to get this done.

Quote from Jason George, Business Manager, IUOE Local 49:

“I understand some of my friends on the Republican side of the aisle are going to have heartburn about this proposal. I challenge them to come to the table, talk to the Governor, and figure out a way to get something impactful done. The time for political talking points is over. This isn’t a time to play to political bases. Our infrastructure is crumbling, money and time is wasted in traffic gridlock, and thousands of construction careers are at stake – the time to do something about this is now.”


Click here to view the press release issued to the media.

Click here to view Governor Walz’s Transportation Infrastructure Plan.

February 19, 2019

Thank You to Public and Private Sector Snow Plow Operators

Thank You to Public and Private Sector Snow Plow Operators

Thank you to the private and public sector snow plow operators for all your efforts to clear our roads and parking lots. You work long hours doing dangerous work all to ensure the safety of others. We are proud to represent these hard working men and women.

“People in our region depend on our public sector snow plow operators to make the way for us to get around as safely as possible during these challenging snow events. We are proud to represent more than 2,000 of these hard working men and women. During the last few weeks of heavy snow, they have put in long hours under dangerous conditions, and they deserve our gratitude and thanks. In addition, I want to thank the private sector snow removal companies that plow our parking lots, many of those people are also members of ours, and they too work long hours and provide a tremendous service in dangerous conditions. If you see these workers out in your community thank them, and when you have the opportunity, support them. They support all of us every day,” said Jason George, Local 49 Business Manager

February 12, 2019

Local 49 Responds to Gov. Walz’s Decision on Enbridge Line 3

Local 49 Responds to Gov. Walz’s Decision on Enbridge Line 3

IUOE Local 49 issued the following press release in response to Governor Walz’s decision to continue the legal challenge of the Enbridge Line 3 Project:

Responsible, large-scale privately funded infrastructure projects don’t happen often and don’t occur overnight. The process to evaluate and vet the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement project was a thorough one that balanced environmental, regulatory, community, and economic concerns. IUOE Local 49 is disappointed in Governor Walz’s decision to challenge the results of this process. However, we are confident that this lawsuit is without merit. This project will be built and the thousands of Union construction workers waiting to get to work will do so later this year.

The timing of this announcement comes as actions of environmental extremist groups plague our state. Just last week, extremists broke into a facility with the intention of shutting down an active pipeline and we received two reports from contractors that their equipment was vandalized because of their work near pipelines. Reasonable people can disagree about important issues, but there is no place for this kind of extremism, and we are concerned that the decision to move forward with this lawsuit will only increase it. IUOE Local 49 stands strong against this violence and cannot support policies that seemingly bow to these tactics.

Jason George, Business Manager of Local 49 released the following statement:

“Governor Walz is our friend and we support him. However, real friends will tell you when they think you are wrong, and on this issue, we have respectfully let the Governor know we strongly disagree with his decision. Continuing this lawsuit is bad public policy and encourages environmental extremism. We cannot support the Governor’s decision, and are disappointed today.”


View the press release here.

February 12, 2019

The Luukkonen Legacy – Three Generations of Local 49 Members

The Luukkonen Legacy – Three Generations of Local 49 Members

Photo (from left) John Luukkonen, Chris Luukkonen, Mike Luukkonen, Rick Luukkonen, Robert Luukkonen, Josh Luukkonen, Tim Luukkonen.


The Luukkonen family out of Virginia, MN can trace their union roots all the way back to the early 1940s. More than 20 family members have been members of Local 49.

John and Mike Luukkonen have each been members of Local 49 for more than 40 years and are the co-founders of the custom crushing and screening company Nothing’s Too Tough (NTT).

“When it comes to crushing, Nothing’s Too Tough, and that’s how it all began,” John said. John’s wife, Patrice, has a more fitting name for the company. “I always said No Time Today,” she said with a laugh.

The Luukkonens know that when you work for a crushing and screening company, you work seven days a week; you’re on call 24/7, and you work all year-round.

“Most of us were taught by our parents how to do this work; it’s always been ‘hey you’re not sitting at home today; you’re coming out to work,’” said Robert Luukkonen, a second generation crusher and 40-year member.

Their job in the mines is to screen pellets to take the fines out of them so that the mines can ship those materials to two different types of steel mills.

“The pellets made high quality steel some of which is used for automobiles, and the fines that we screen out of the pellets would go to make appliance items,” Robert explained.

Josh Luukkonen, Robert’s son, and a five-year member, explained that working year-round and always being on call is one of the toughest parts of the job.

“You could get a call at any moment by the mining companies. If they call at 2:00 a.m. saying they are broken down and need a conveyor to put materials in a plant, you have to go; otherwise they’ll just call someone else,” he said.

Josh explained that on the job site, you are also working in conjunction with the miners, so you have to build those relationships.

“You work side by side with them. Sometimes we have hoppers and conveyors set up into the plant, and the miners feed the hopper, and we would watch the belts and clean up,” Josh explained.

“Other jobs we’d be there screening or crushing, and the miners would be there to pick up what we’re screening and what’s coming off of our conveyors,” he added.

John and Mike started NTT in 1987 with four other partners and became sole owners in 1991.

“Well, you know you go to the bar; and you start talking, and we thought—hey we can do that,” Mike said with a laugh.

“When we first started, it was tough, but it got easier as we became more established, ” Mike added. “We always maintained a high level of work, and our guys always got paid on time.”

Since NTT’s inception, John and Mike made it a priority to keep it a union company.

“With the union, you have the most qualified people,” John said. “We would never hire anyone else because we have high standards. This is a legacy, and we intend to keep it that way.”

John also stated that having the benefits package with Local 49 was a contributing factor to NTT’s long-term success.

“The union offers security, good pay for workers, great benefits, and a great pension. You can’t beat it,” he said.

John and Mike recently sold NTT last year to a new owner, Aaran Leustek. They said that they would have never sold it if the new owner wouldn’t keep their employees and maintain the high standards that NTT has set for the last 30 years.

“We have a good reputation out there, and we wanted to make sure it was going into the hands of someone who would keep it that way,” John said.

While the type of work is tough, the Luukkonens take pride in their long family history in the business and in Local 49. They are even a staple in the northern Minnesota Local 49 summer picnic as the builders of the BBQ grill that is used to cook the food for the picnic.

John and Mike built the grill in 1991, and for more than 25 years, their employees are the ones who cook the food. NTT has also donated dozens of prizes for the event over the years.

(left) Robert and Rick Luukkonen standing with Local 49 Business Agent Dan Snidarich who presented them with their 40 year service pin.

Dan Snidarich, Local 49 Virginia Area Business Agent, spoke highly of the Luukkonen family saying, “They’re good union members, but they’re also just really great people, and their pedigree is at the highest level.”

Chris Luukkonen, who is the second oldest next to John, recently retired and worked 40 years as a 49er in the blacktop industry.

In addition to working on crushers, Ricky Luukkonen worked in the marine division of Local 49 for 20 years.

The Luukkonens will continue the family tradition of being in the crushing business and being proud long-standing members of Local 49.

“This is a legacy. My grandfather was a 49er. My dad is; all of my uncles and cousins are as well so it’s an honor to be a part of something this big and be able to contribute to it,” Josh said.

For more stories like the Luukkonens’, visit




February 5, 2019

Nominate Women Members of Local 49 for Women Building Success Awards

Nominate Women Members of Local 49 for Women Building Success Awards

Do you know an outstanding woman member of Local 49? Nominate them for a Women Building Success Award!

There are three nomination categories: Apprentice of the Year, Journeyworker of the Year and Women’s Advocate of the Year. The nomination deadline is Friday, February 15, 2019. To nominate an outstanding woman member of Local 49 please fill out this form and e-mail it to

Last year Local 49 apprentice Akeethia Brown won the Apprentice of the Year award. We hope another one of our amazing women members win again this year.

The annual Women Building Success event honors outstanding women workers in the local building trades, and celebrates all of the achievements women have made in the industry. The event will be hosted on March 6, 2019 at Surly Brewing Company. Men and women are invited to attend the event. Contact for more information.

February 4, 2019

Dick Ames, Founder of Ames Construction, Passes Away

Dick Ames, Founder of Ames Construction, Passes Away

Dick Ames, a leader in the construction industry and founder of Ames Construction, passed away today at his home. He was 89.

Jason George, Local 49 Business Manager, released the following statement.

“On behalf of the entire membership of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, I want to express our sincere condolences to the Ames family upon learning of the passing of company founder Dick Ames. We honor and will never forget the commitment and support he demonstrated to his workers, his family, and the entire construction community. Our thoughts are with the Ames family at this time.”

Click here to read the Pioneer Press article about Dick Ames.

Funeral arrangements are as follows:

Visitation will be on Thursday, February 7, 2019 from 3:00 – 8:00 PM at Mount Olivet Church – 5025 Knox Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN 55419.

The service will be held on Friday, February 8, 2019 with visitation at 10:00 AM and the service beginning at 11:00 AM at Mount Olivet Church – 5025 Knox Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN 55419.

January 30, 2019

Wood Forest Products – A Company with Deep Roots

Wood Forest Products – A Company with Deep Roots

Peter and Vincent “Vinny” Wood are the father and son team behind Wood Forest Products, a logging company headquartered in Northern Minnesota. In 2017 Wood Forest Products became Local 49’s first signatory logging company.

Local 49 petitioned the International Union of Operating Engineers for a separate charter, now known as Local 49 L, to be able to sign Wood Forest Products as a signatory contractor.  This enables members to retain their benefits if they work for a signed logging contractor.

Peter Wood is a third-generation logger. His grandfather homesteaded in Canyon in 1917 and logged in the winter and farmed in the summer.  His dad taught him and his brother John, who also owns his own logging operation and works with his sons, how to work in the woods at an early age. The Wood family still lives on the original homestead.

“It’s not a job, it’s a way of life. I was born into this and I’ve been working out here since I was six years old.”

Similar to the construction industry, those of us in the timber industry know that logging is not for the faint of heart.

“Either you love this or you don’t.  The industry is constantly changing, and you work long hours,” Peter said. “At the same time, you get to work in the woods, where beauty and nature is all around. The job you do maintains the health and beauty of the forest for future generations to enjoy. When you harvest a forest you still have a forest again.”

From the Forest to the Mills

“Our product is in a lot more every day items than most people realize,” Peter said. “It’s not just paper products, it’s used in certain auto parts, home products and even makeup. It is used in so many items. That is why I call it the Hidden Industry.”

The right to harvest timber comes from either private or public landowners.  A harvest plan is determined and a contract is agreed upon before any work begins and just like constructions jobs, there are regulations and deadlines to comply with.

Vinny Wood Operating the Feller Buncher

The trees are first removed with a piece of equipment called a Feller Buncher, which nearly simultaneously cuts and removes the tree. Located on the Feller Buncher is a large circular blade that cuts the tree, and claw-like handles that grab onto the tree to pick it up and place it into piles to be pulled to the landing.

Operating the Feller Buncher is Vinny’s job on the site.

“It’s a complicated piece of equipment because both your hands are operating joy sticks while your thumbs and pointer fingers are pushing buttons that control the functions of the cutting head and arms while your feet are moving both tracks.  This is all happening simultaneously.” Vinny said.

“It’s a lot to do mentally because you’re moving your hands and feet operating the different movements all at the exact same time,” Peter added. “But if you can handle it, it’s actually one of the better jobs on the site, because you are kind of off by yourself enjoying the scenery.”

The trees are pulled to the landing with a skidder where they are

Stacking the logs that are ready to bring to the mills.

sorted, cut, and loaded onto trailers for delivery to mills.  The waste from limbs and branches is chipped and hauled for biomass for electricity.

Joining Local 49

Peter was first interested in joining Local 49 four years ago after learning about the benefits available to Local 49 members and their families through meetings with the Local 49 area business agents and the Associated Contract Loggers and Truckers (ACLT) of Minnesota.

“The benefits of everyone chipping in and we’re all in this boat together, so to speak,” Peter said.  “As the older generation retires, the new generation comes in and we all help each other out in that way.”

The Operating Engineers Local 49 Health Plan was a factor to joining Local 49.

“We’re used to having a $13,000 deductible and paying a $2,000 per month premium,” he added. “This is what really drove me to seriously consider Local 49 and explore what they offer.  Their health insurance is tremendous.”

Peter said he hopes other logging companies will look into the benefits that the Local 49 offers and see if it will work for their business.

Challenges in the Timber Industry 

Scott Dane, the Executive Director of the ACLT, said that logging companies face the challenge of offering competitive wages and benefits to attract and retain employees.

“If we can offer employees competitive wages, health insurance and a retirement package then we can not only start to attract new people in the industry, but also retain them,” Dane said.

For years the construction and logging community have shared operators who worked construction in the summer and logging in the winter.

During the winter months, Dane said that many heavy equipment operators will work for logging companies while they’re laid off, and he hopes that as more logging companies join Local 49 that gap can be bridged.

“As people get laid off and come out to the forest to work they could actually maintain their benefits while they’re working all year long, and I think that could be a great partnership,” Dane said.

Looking to the Future

Vinny cutting the branches in preparation for the wood to be brought to the mills.

While Peter said he doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon, he still is preparing his son Vinny to take over the family business some day and carry on the legacy.

Just like his dad, Vinny has grown up working out in the forest since he was a child and now at the age of 20 he is learning what it takes to run the family business.

“Vinny had the option of going to college or coming out here and he wanted to be out here,” Peter said. “He started bunching [operating Feller Buncher] for me about a year ago and it’s been working out very well.”

Vinny graduated at the top of his class in 2017, completed post secondary classes while in high school and originally thought about being an engineer but decided his heart was really to work in the woods.


Peter Wood hosts a Podcast called Let the Sawdust Fly. Click here to listen to Jason George, Local 49 Business Manager and area Local 49 Business Agents on his show from Wednesday, Jan. 30. 

Read more stories like Peter and Vinny’s at

January 30, 2019

Local 49 Member is the First to Graduate from the Jointly Established Apprenticeship Program with the City of Minneapolis and Local 49

Local 49 Member is the First to Graduate from the Jointly Established Apprenticeship Program with the City of Minneapolis and Local 49

Photographed (from left) Scott Kelly, Public Works Training Supervisor for the city of Minneapolis, Hunter Smith, Local 49 Member, Steve Tuhy, Local 49 Training Center Apprenticeship Coordinator, and Cory Bergerson, Local 49 Public Sector Business Agent.


A graduation ceremony was held today for Local 49 member Hunter Smith who became the first graduate of the city of Minneapolis Public Works Service Worker II Apprenticeship Program. This apprenticeship program was jointly established with Local 49 and the city of Minneapolis, and is registered with the Minnesota Apprenticeship Advisory Council.

Robin Hutcheson, the Director of Public Works for the city of Minneapolis, began the ceremony by recognizing Hunter’s achievement, and noted the partnership with labor in making this achievement possible.

“I want to congratulate Hunter by not only graduating, but by being the first. He has shown an investment in himself and that’s extremely impressive,” Hutcheson said. “I also want to recognize, in addition to you (Hunter) wanting to invest in yourself and to grow into a new role, that only in partnership with labor can we make some of these opportunities happen.”

“This is a first for us in leveraging our partnership with labor to advance an employee into a new and better position in the organization, and you (Hunter) are the first beneficiary of that partnership,” she added.

This apprenticeship program is designed as an avenue for Service Worker I employees of the city of Minneapolis Public Works to develop the skills necessary to operate and maintain heavy equipment to move onto the Service Worker II level of employment.

Local 49 Member Hunter Smith

Over the course of this two-year apprenticeship program Hunter was required to log more than 4,000 hours on heavy equipment, and complete 288 hours of classroom training at the Local 49 Training Center. During Hunter’s time at the Training Center he completed courses in confined space entry, HAZMAT, grades and stakes, large and small equipment operation, and he earned his OSHA 10 card.

“I think the best way to become a member of Local 49 is going through the apprenticeship program,” Smith said. “You’re not only earning your way to that title, but the specialized training that is offered is amazing.”

“I was not only able to receive specialized training on how to operate each piece of equipment safely, but then also to go out on the job and utilize that equipment.”

Steve Tuhy, the Apprenticeship Coordinator for the Local 49 Training Center, spoke about Hunter’s accomplishments and how putting in the hard work can pay off.

“Hunter was always looking for the next way to advance his skills and that’s what it takes,” Tuhy said. “In this industry you get out of it what you put into it and Hunter puts 110 percent into his career.”

Cory Bergerson, the Local 49 Business Agent who represents the Public Service Worker II employees for the city of Minneapolis Public Works, spoke about the partnership between the city of Minneapolis and Local 49, and how Hunter is just the first of many to graduate from this apprenticeship program.

“Hunter will be an ambassador to this program for many other apprentices coming down the road by looking to him as a mentor,” Bergerson said.

(from left) Steve Tuhy, Local 49 Training Center Apprenticeship Coordinator, Scott Kelly, Public Works Training Supervisor for the city of Minneapolis, Hunter Smith, Local 49 Member, and Cory Bergerson, Local 49 Public Sector Business Agent.

“The partnership between Local 49 and the city of Minneapolis has been excellent, because this partnership not only allows employees to further their career, but it’s also improving our industry as a whole,” he added.

Scott Kelly, the Public Works Training Supervisor for the city of Minneapolis, was instrumental in developing this apprenticeship program, and said that there will already be two new apprentices entering the program on February 4th, 2019 with the goal to graduate four apprentices a year.

“Hunter has displayed an outstanding initiative and he continues to maintain a high level of efficiency, and he’s also gained the admiration and respect of his fellow employees and supervisors,” Kelly said.

“When I go out to talk to his supervisors and mentors on his crew they always tell me how Hunter digs into the work, takes on the challenges and how he succeeds at overcoming those challenges, and that’s really what this program is all about,” Kelly added.

You can read more stories like Hunter’s at



January 24, 2019

Proposal Meetings for MN Builders Agreement

Proposal Meetings for MN Builders Agreement

The Minnesota Builders Master Agreement expires at the end of April of 2019. Local 49 will be hosting proposal meetings in Minnesota to hear from members about what issues are important to pursue in negotiations.

Each office will conduct at least one proposal meeting in January or February – you can find the dates and times listed below.

If you can’t make a meeting, you can log into the members only portal of our website and send in your proposal ideas. If you work under the MN Builders Master Agreement we encourage you to make your voice heard.

Metro Area Minneapolis Office – January 23rd and February 20th at 6pm

Bagley Office – January 14th and February 11th at 7pm

Sioux Falls Office – January 10th and February 14th at 7pm

Grand Rapids (Eagles Club) –  February 12th at 6:30pm

Rochester Office – February 28th at 7pm

Mankato Office – January 24th at 7pm

St. Cloud Office – February 7th at 7:30pm

Virginia Office – February 6th at 7:30pm

Duluth Office – February 5th at 7:30pm

January 10, 2019

Minnesota Issues Last of its Major Permits for PolyMet

Minnesota Issues Last of its Major Permits for PolyMet

After more than a decade, the PCA will be issuing the final state permits for PolyMet this morning.

Local 49 Business Manager Jason George released the following statement, “Today’s news is yet another very positive step in the permitting process for the Polymet project. Our members have strongly supported Polymet for more than 10 years, and we are thrilled that the time to get to work building this project is here.”

Click here to view the full press released issued by PolyMet 

December 20, 2018

Minnesota Wins with Prevailing Wage (Midwest Economic Policy Institute)

Minnesota Wins with Prevailing Wage (Midwest Economic Policy Institute)

“At a time when unemployment is historically low and 72% of contractors are having trouble filling craft positions, one policy has helped recruit and retain skilled workers into Minnesota’s construction industry: the Minnesota Prevailing Wage Act. The policy provides local minimum wages for construction workers employed on public projects and levels the playing field for contractors.

The Minnesota Prevailing Wage Act keeps construction costs stable.

  • The vast majority studies find that prevailing wage laws have no effect on public construction costs.
  • Labor costs are a low and historically declining share of total project costs– about 23%.
  • A new analysis of 640 bids on school construction projects in Minnesota finds that winning bids on projects with prevailing wages are no more costly than bids on projects without prevailing wages.

Read the full story here >

December 19, 2018

Local 49 Rally Against Outsourcing Jobs, PUC Decides to Table Decision on Bitter Root Wind Energy Project

Local 49 Rally Against Outsourcing Jobs, PUC Decides to Table Decision on Bitter Root Wind Energy Project

Local 49 as well as a coalition of labor unions and clean energy advocates prevailed today as the Minnesota Public Utilities commission (PUC) voted unanimously to place the site permit decision on hold for the controversial Bitter Root RES Wind Project in an attempt to address the issue of labor outsourcing on Minnesota construction workers.

Labor officials and clean energy advocates spoke out at a rally today at the PUC against the outsourcing of wind energy construction jobs, and held a press conference calling on the PUC to withhold the permit for the Bitter Root Wind Energy Project. The PUC decided to place the permit on hold, and they will now move forward with a contested case proceeding.  The parties involved, with the assistance of the Department of Labor, will work to address the issues brought up today at the hearing in an attempt to resolve this before the contested case proceeding.

RES Americas, which needed PUC approval to build the 150 megawatt Bitter Root Wind in Yellow Medicine County, relies heavily on out-of-state worker to build wind energy projects and has played a game of “bait-and-switch” with Minnesota workers.

Jason George, Local 49 Business Manager, said during the press conference, “We have a long history of building the energy infrastructure in this state with local and skilled trade workers. That’s the standard that we have for any new industry that comes  here. If the renewable energy industry wants to expand here, which we support, they need to meet that standard. They can’t use national contractors to bring in workers from other states that pay less than what we make here in area wage standards. When they outsource jobs it results in displacing local workers that earn a good wage here in Minnesota, that’s not right, and I don’t think Minnesotans support that.”

An analysis of Bitter Root Wind prepared by North Star Policy Institute, a progressive think tank, found that the project could result in a net loss of jobs and millions of dollars in economic development by crowding out competing wind energy projects that might have put more Minnesotans to work.

Clean energy advocates – including Melissa Hortman, incoming Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, and Blue Green Alliance, whose members include Sierra Club, and other leading environmental organizations – have also criticized outsourcing of clean energy jobs and urged the PUC to put the project on hold.


Photo: (from left)
Chris Chantry,  Metro Area Public Sector Business Agent, Tom Thompson, Metro Area Business Agent, Jason George, Local 49 Business Manager, Steve Piper, Southwest Metro Business Agent, Ferlin Miller, Southeast Metro Business Agent, Nathan Sogge, Northwest Metro Business Agent, and Victor Ruzynski, North Metro Business Agent. 

December 6, 2018

Ground Broken for Southwest Light Rail Line

Ground Broken for Southwest Light Rail Line

The largest public sector project in Minnesota broke ground today. Representatives from Local 49 were in attendance at the Southwest Light Rail Line (SWLRT) groundbreaking ceremony held in Hopkins at the site of the future SWLRT support facility.

The Southwest Light Rail project will create 7,500 construction jobs, and have 16 stations starting in Minneapolis and ending in Eden Prairie.

Jason George, Local 49 Business Manager, said, “The groundbreaking of the Southwest Light Rail Line project marks a monumental day for members of Local 49. This project has been something that we have long advocated for, as it will bring thousands of union construction jobs to our members. We’re proud to be a part of another historic project that will be a pivotal fixture in the Twin Cities for years to come.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Tina Smith, Representative Keith Ellison, and other government officials instrumental in the project spoke at the historic groundbreaking ceremony.

Peter McLaughlin, Hennepin County Commissioner, commended labor for their efforts in making this project possible.

“Organized labor fought to build this and make this happen. We are so lucky to have skilled trades people in our state to build this,” McLaughlin said.

The SWLRT is expected to start carrying passengers in 2023.

November 30, 2018

OSHA Removes Capacity Requirement

OSHA Removes Capacity Requirement

According to the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO), OSHA has removed from its rule the requirement for crane operators to be certified according to the capacity of the crane. This decision was supported by the overwhelming majority of industry stakeholders at meetings hosted by OSHA and others since the rule was first published in 2010.

In its Proposed Rule published today, OSHA has laid out plans to address the other major issue on which industry had raised concerns, that of what, if anything, an employer’s duty should be over and above operator certification. Fully one-fifth of the Federal Register notice is taken up with details of what OSHA is proposing should be the responsibility of employers in addition to having their operators certified, including their ongoing evaluation and training.

IUOE Local 49 Business Manager Glen Johnson has released a statement regarding OSHA’s additional plans to combat these issues.

Other areas OSHA addresses in its Proposed Rule include: qualifications for trainers; who must pay for certification (the employer); whether duty cycle cranes or cranes in the 5,000 – 35,000 pound capacity should be excluded (no); requirements for operators-in-training; and whether there should be (yet) another extension if the Final Rule is not published until after July.

OSHA has invited comments on its proposals. Electronic submissions should be made on docket OSHA-2007-0066 at on or before June 20.


May 22, 2018