IUOE Hail Permit Approval for Keystone XL Pipeline

IUOE Hail Permit Approval for Keystone XL Pipeline

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

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

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

Click here to read the full statement.

Impact of Prevailing Wage on Military Veterans in Minnesota

Impact of Prevailing Wage on Military Veterans in Minnesota

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

Prevailing wage standards make construction employment more attractive for veterans and

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

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

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

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

• Supports veteran-owned construction firms.

Click here to read the full independent study.

National Right to Work Bill Introduced!

National Right to Work Bill Introduced!

The International Union of Operating Engineers released a statement regarding the recent National Right to Work Bill that was introduced last week. Below is the full letter that was sent out to members.

 

Crony capitalists are trying to rig the system. Although a majority of states are now weakened by “Right-to-Work” laws, billionaire CEO’s will not be satisfied until the entire nation is put under “Right-to-Work.”

A national “Right-to-Work” bill, H.R. 785, was just introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by longtime mouthpiece for anti-union construction contractors, Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa). This legislation is designed to lower workers’ wages, shut down unions and maximize CEO profits.

Contact your Member of Congress today!

“Right-to-work” laws thrust the government into the middle of labor-management negotiations. It eliminates “union security” clauses in collective bargaining agreements, which simply require workers who benefit under an agreement to pay their fair share. “Right-to-work” laws even allow an individual worker to avoid paying a dime for the cost of taking up a grievance on their behalf. Yet the union still has a duty to represent the worker.

“Right to work” is wrong. It is wrong for workers, employers, and they’re simply un-American.

Please contact your Member of Congress right now and urge them to stand up for working families by opposing H.R. 785, National “Right-to-Work” legislation. “Right-to-Work” isn’t about improving working conditions, increasing wages, or providing a secure retirement for workers. It does not increase jobs. It only lowers standards for all workers.

Studies have shown that states with “Right-to-Work” laws suffer:

·         Lower Wages and Incomes

·         Lower Rates of Health Insurance Coverage

·         Higher Poverty and Infant Mortality Rates

·         Higher Workplace Fatality Rates

Contact your Member of Congress today!

The IUOE is just beginning to develop the program to fight S. 785, National “right to work” legislation. We have recently launched the “StopRTW.org” website for more information.

In Solidarity,

Engineers Action and Response Network (EARN)

 

Elevate Minnesota campaign puts spotlight on construction workers

Elevate Minnesota campaign puts spotlight on construction workers

Originally published in the Star Tribune January 31, 2017

 

Tanya, the cement truck driver, and Adriane, the mechanical insulator, are two of more than 80,000 skilled tradesmen who help build Minnesota, literally.

A coalition of 16 local labor unions have launched “Elevate Minnesota,” a public relations campaign to tell the stories of blue-collar workers who are described in a release as “your union friends and neighbors raising the bar for us all.”

“We are trying to really show them who these folks are and remind them how hard they work for all of us and show the skills that we have, the training that we have, the privately funded health care, pensions and what we do every day in the communities across the state,” said Elevate Minnesota Board Chair Jason George, special projects director of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49. “We just feel like that that story has been lost in the last few decades.”

The “Elevate Minnesota” campaign launched last week in the form of radio spots, Facebook posts and digital videos.

The venture doesn’t have a political agenda, George said. The impetus was simply that the construction trades don’t often do a proper job explaining their contributions and the benefits that they offer to their workers, he said. The campaign highlights the union-funded training and other benefits to workers as well as the community involvement that many engage in.

“The important thing that we want people to understand is the value that we give Minnesota,” George said.

Construction workers continue to be in high demand. Last year, the construction industry added more than 7,400 jobs in Minnesota growing 6.9 percent, which was more than four times the national pace.

Elevate Minnesota is a partnership of these organizations:

Boilermakers Local 647

Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1

Cement Masons, Plasterers and Shophands Local 633

Heat and Frost Allied Workers Local 34

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 110

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 292

International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49

Iron Workers Local 512

Laborers’ District Council

Minnesota Pipe Trades Association

North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters

Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82

Plasterers Local 265

Roofers and Waterproofers Local 96

Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 10

Teamsters Local 120

Snow Fighters Appreciation Day

Snow Fighters Appreciation Day

ROSEVILLE —  Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton made the official proclamation of Snow Fighter Appreciation Day in Minnesota today.

In celebration of Snow Fighter Appreciation Day, the American Highway Users Alliance hosted an event today at the Rosedale Mall in Roseville, MN to support the hard working men and women who keep roads safe and commerce moving in Minnesota.

Speakers at the event included Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Commissioner Charlie Zelle and Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman

On behalf of Local 49, thank you to all of our public sector members who ensure our roads are safe. 

Executive Action on Pipelines is Welcome News to Pipeline Workers

Executive Action on Pipelines is Welcome News to Pipeline Workers

WASHINGTON, DC – The following statement was issued today by James T. Callahan, General President of the International Union of Operating Engineers, on President Trump’s executive actions on pipeline construction in the United States:

“President Trump’s executive orders paving the way to build more domestic energy infrastructure is welcome news to the Operating Engineers. His actions today restore stability to a pipeline industry that has invested billions in private infrastructure over the years, only to see the goal posts moved arbitrarily based solely on politics.

Pipeline projects like Keystone XL and Dakota Access—projects that followed proper regulatory processes and legal procedures— may now move forward with more certainty for the owners, contractors and construction workers who take pride in building safe, modern energy infrastructure for America.”

Click here to read the full statement.

Minnesota’s Private Sector Labor Unions Unite for Nation’s First Awareness Campaign

Minnesota’s Private Sector Labor Unions Unite for Nation’s First Awareness Campaign

MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota’s private sector labor unions today announced the creation of “Elevate Minnesota,” a campaign aimed at highlighting important contributions of Minnesota’s private sector unions to Minnesota. This first-of-its-kind campaign, launching today on radio, Facebook and at elevateminnesota.org with the tagline “Your union friends and neighbors raising the bar for us all,” brings together 16 labor unions to share the real stories of their members. “Whether they’re raising a new bridge, hauling equipment to and from job sites, or bringing U.S. Bank Stadium to life, the diverse group of men and women of Minnesota’s private sector unions are helping Minnesota’s economy thrive,” said Elevate Minnesota Board Chair Jason George of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49. “A strong and thriving economy relies on our members and our private sector partners. This campaign aims to elevate the work our members are doing in every community in every corner of Minnesota.”

Click here to read the full press release.

Local 49 Joins Other Labor & Business Leaders in Issuing a Joint Statement on Transportation

Local 49 Joins Other Labor & Business Leaders in Issuing a Joint Statement on Transportation

No more excuses; transportation infrastructure funding demands action

By Doug Loon, Charlie Weaver, Tim Worke, John Raines, Todd Pufahl and Glen Johnson

Originally Published in the Star Tribune Friday, January 13, 2017


This is a tumultuous time in our state and nation. Many Minnesotans are increasingly frustrated with our political process and the lack of progress on critical issues. Like them, we believe that in Minnesota, we can and should do better. We need to put our differences aside and find common ground to get important things done.

Long-term transportation infrastructure funding is one issue where this can and should happen in the 2017 legislative session. Our elected leaders have repeatedly kicked the can down the road in recent years, while our infrastructure has continued to deteriorate and the cost to fix it has gone up. Both parties share responsibility for inaction, and both have too eagerly played the political blame game.

That is not acceptable, to any of us, anymore. Business and labor do not always agree, but there’s no disagreement between us when it comes to support for a logical, fair and responsible compromise that will substantially address our long-term transportation infrastructure needs.

The Legislature and the governor should enact a long-term transportation infrastructure funding plan early in the 2017 session that has the following components:

• All transportation-related taxes currently being collected in the general fund should be dedicated to transportation infrastructure (biggest issue being sales tax on auto parts and rental cars).

• Projects must be delivered efficiently. More must be done for less.

• Use trunk highway and general obligation bonding to support investment in our transportation infrastructure.

• Innovative public/private project funding allowed and encouraged.

• Depreciation schedule adjusted for passenger vehicle license tab fees.

• Metro counties allowed to lead in funding the buildout and operation of the metro transit system that is outside the network of regular bus routes.

If our approach is implemented, around $6 billion will be available to start to address our transportation infrastructure needs in the next 10 years. We recognize our proposal isn’t perfect, and it will not solve all of our infrastructure problems. But it will make a sizable, sustained investment at a time when the long-term commitment of additional resources is desperately needed.

Some will say it doesn’t go far enough and will advocate for large, new tax increases. Others will cry foul at directing money from the state’s general fund to transportation infrastructure. We expect and welcome debate and are interested in other good ideas. But we cannot let that debate be used to sidetrack and politicize the issue and stop anything from happening.

Hundreds of thousands of families across Minnesota who rely on good-paying construction jobs deserve a future. Our best and brightest companies that depend on quality infrastructure to do business in our state require a solution. Thousands of small-business owners who make their living building this state need some certainty if they are to survive.

Everyone in Minnesota depends on our transportation system. Transportation infrastructure is a core function of government, one of the few things the Minnesota Constitution specifically says government must provide for the people. A sound and dependable transportation network touches every citizen.

Our elected leaders must put their differences aside to solve this problem. The time for excuses and political gamesmanship is over.

Doug Loon is president, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. Charlie Weaver is executive director, Minnesota Business Partnership. Tim Worke is CEO, Associated General Contractors of Minnesota. John Raines is executive secretary-treasurer, North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters. Todd Pufahl is president, Laborers District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota. Glen Johnson is business manager-financial secretary, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49.

Jobs for Minnesotans Outraged Over “Arbitrary” Federal Moves to Deny Twin Metals’ Leases and Block Future Development

Jobs for Minnesotans Outraged Over “Arbitrary” Federal Moves to Deny Twin Metals’ Leases and Block Future Development

St. Paul, Minnesota (Dec. 15, 2016) – Jobs for Minnesotans released the following statement in response to the decisions by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to deny Twin Metals Minnesota’s lease renewals and to withdraw federal lands from future development:

“Jobs for Minnesotans is outraged by the Obama Administration’s arbitrary and unprecedented actions to bar new mineral permits and leases on federally owned lands in northeastern Minnesota and to deny the renewal of Twin Metals Minnesota’s federal mineral leases. These acts are attacks on the future accessibility of critical minerals and on the people of northeastern Minnesota who have proudly and responsibly developed natural resources for generations. They send a chilling message to the communities that have held out hope that a new era of mining would ensure their long-term prosperity.”

Local 49 Special Projects Director Jason George sits on the board of Jobs for Minnesotan’s and added the following:

“The decision to deny mineral leases to Twin Metals, and ban mining in 234,000 acres of federal land is a slap in the face to hard working construction workers on the Iron Range. The Twin Metals project would create millions of work hours during construction, and good paying jobs in operation. To reject this project before it is even officially submitted and before any scientific data has been gathered is utterly ridiculous. It was a decision based purely on politics and emotion. That is not how important decisions that affect people’s livelihoods should be made.”

Click here to read the full statement from Jobs for Minnesotans. 

IUOE Calls Administration Energy-Infrastructure Policy an Embarrassment

IUOE Calls Administration Energy-Infrastructure Policy an Embarrassment

WASHINGTON, DC – James T. Callahan, General President of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), issued the following statement regarding the Dakota Access pipeline:

“The Dakota Access pipeline has jumped through every regulatory hoop and cleared every hurdle, including every barrier erected by the Army Corps of Engineers and this Administration.

Politics, pure and cynically simple, is the only reason why – at this point in the process when the project is 90% built – the Administration would walk away from their own technical and legal teams who developed the 1,261 page Environmental Assessment and defended that work successfully in court.

Click here to read the full statement.

Poll Shows Strong Support for Copper-Nickel Mining in Northeastern Minnesota

Poll Shows Strong Support for Copper-Nickel Mining in Northeastern Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn., Nov. 29, 2016 By large margins northeastern Minnesotans support the development of new copper-nickel mines and oppose new federal restrictions on mining throughout the region. Those are the results of a new survey conducted November 12-14, 2016, across five northeast Minnesota counties and released today by Twin Metals Minnesota and MiningMinnesota.

By greater than a 3-1 margin survey respondents support environmentally-responsible mining in the region. Additionally, by more than 2-1, respondents support the building of new copper-nickel mines and believe copper-nickel mining can be done in an environmentally-responsible way. More than 60 percent support the Twin Metals underground copper-nickel project.

“Support for the mining economy and for the development of copper-nickel mining projects is overwhelming across northeastern Minnesota and the Iron Range,” said Bob McFarlin, Twin Metals spokesperson. “This extraordinary support reflects a strong belief that copper-nickel mining can help revitalize the region’s economy, protect the environment and create jobs for generations of Minnesotans.”

Click here to read the full press release from Twin Metals Minnesota.

Sen. Heitkamp Presses White House on Dakota Access Pipeline

Sen. Heitkamp Presses White House on Dakota Access Pipeline

MANDAN, N.D. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today issued the following statement following her conversation this week with White House officials regarding the Dakota Access pipeline.

“This week when I spoke with a top White House official, I made it crystal clear that enough is enough – the president needs to act now to make a decision on whether to grant the easement underneath Lake Oahe, or he should let the Army Corps of Engineers make that decision immediately. Continued inaction and delay is not justice, and it has brought our communities no peace – rather, it has put lives at risk. The Administration has failed to offer the federal assistance necessary to help law enforcement officers keep our communities safe and protect our families, workers, and ranchers. Protestors should be able to exercise their First Amendment right peacefully and lawfully, but in many cases now, that isn’t what we’re seeing. Despite my continued meetings with the White House, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of the Interior, it is apparent that the White House either does not understand, or will not respect the severity of the situation on the ground – which I told them increases my fear that their failure to act will lead to an escalation of violence.

“For months, I’ve requested over and over the law enforcement resources to keep our communities safe. In the time the Administration has dragged its feet and offered scant support, our own law enforcement has grown weary – stretching and wearing resources thin not just near the protest sites but in communities rippled across our state. The White House promised me it would consult with the Corps in short order, and I’ll be close on their heels – because for our communities, turning a blind eye is not an option, and neither is anything but a speedy conclusion.”

For the past several months, Heitkamp and her staff have been meeting regularly with local law enforcement, land owners, workers, and residents about the Dakota Access pipeline protests. She has had continued conversations with the White House, Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Justice, and U.S. Department of Interior to push for a final decision on the easement going under Lake Oahe. She has also been working in a joint effort with the federal delegation and Governor Jack Dalrymple to push for federal funds to provide law enforcement with needed resources to support public safety during the ongoing demonstrations.

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What Do the Election Results Mean for Members of Local 49?

What Do the Election Results Mean for Members of Local 49?

Director of Special Projects, Jason George, issued a statement regarding what the election results mean for members of Local 49. 

It’s time to move on from election results and start to think about what the new landscape means for our Union and our jobs.  It has only been a couple of days, and there will be much more in depth analysis about the future, but here are some initial thoughts that I wanted to share with you.

Federal Level

Republicans are now in complete control of United States government. They have a narrow majority in the US Senate, a large majority in the US House, and as we all know Donald Trump won the White House. There will be a lot of speculation as to how that happened and why. We are more interested in figuring out how things will play out going forward.

Jobs

There will be some positive news on the jobs front in a few different specific industries that our members work in. The pipeline permitting process will certainly be smoother, and less political at the federal level. We can anticipate that federal agencies will no longer interject themselves in the permitting process to stop projects the way they have the last 8 years. This should mean that projects that meet legal environmental standards are allowed to go forward without delay. DAPL will likely be completed sooner rather than later. In addition, it is very possible that we will finally get to build the Keystone XL pipeline in the next 4 years, should the company bring it forward again.

We can probably anticipate that mining projects in northern Minnesota that meet federal and state regulations will also not be held up by federal agencies interjecting themselves needlessly into the permitting process.

Donald Trump has talked a lot about the need to rebuild the nations crumbling infrastructure. We have heard this talk before from both political parties, it is yet to be determined whether the new administration and the Republican Congress will deliver. We should be hopeful on this front, but we will need to push them to follow through on their rhetoric. 

Supreme Court

There is a current vacancy on the Supreme Court that will now be filled by the Republican controlled government. That will mean a conservative court for years to come. This will have a lot of impacts on a lot of issues. As it relates to our union and our jobs, one particular issue will be important.

The Friedrich’s case that we discussed a lot with members the last year or so will come back. This case, if decided against union members, would make the entire public sector in America right to work. Friedrich’s was delayed because of a 4-4 tie vote after the death of Justice Scalia. Because there was no majority decision, the case can be brought back relatively quickly by a new court. It is likely that it will come back, and it is likely that the new conservative majority will rule against union members.

We don’t know the timing of this, but we will need to prepare. The good news is we have already done a lot of work with our public sector stewards on this issue. We have educated them about the case, about what it means, and about the need to educate our public sector members. Whatever happens with this case, we believe that the public sector side of our union will be fine. As long as members keep paying dues and we keep providing good service, nothing will change even if this case goes against us. 

Prevailing Wage and Right To Work in Congress

There could be a push to pass a national Right to Work law. The question is will it go anywhere. There are a few things working in our favor in this difficult position. The republicans have a narrow majority in the Senate, and traditionally you need 60 votes to get anything passed there. There are not 60 votes for a national RTW law. In addition, there might be some Republicans, including the new President, that understand the level of support they received from blue collar workers in this country and might not want to do something that would certainly harm them. This is all speculation. We don’t know how it is going to play out. We don’t know if this fight will come, but we should all be ready to make our voices heard if it does.

We are more optimistic on the prevailing wage issue. There are more than 50 republicans in the US House that have consistently voted against repealing prevailing wage, including MN 6th District Congressman Tom Emmer. There are also republican US Senators that don’t support repeal of prevailing wage. Our folks at the International have done a great job building relationships with Republicans and educating them on this specific issue. We are optimistic that we can win a large scale attack on prevailing wage at the federal level. Nobody ran on cutting construction workers pay, there is no reason to go after this issue.

Minnesota

Republicans now control the State House and Senate. There is still a DFL Governor for 2 more years. There might be a small minority of extreme right wingers that want to push right to work or attacks on prevailing wage. Any legislation that guts prevailing wage would have to be signed by the Governor and we are very confident he will not agree to any cuts to construction workers wages. Governor Dayton has also said he will never sign right to work legislation. However it is possible for the legislature to put forward a constitutional amendment on right to work.

Local 49 has spent the last 8 years talking to Republicans. We worked with them when they were in the minority and when they were in the majority. Almost every Republican in this state has been through a training center visit. We have built solid relationships with them, and had great conversations with them about issues like prevailing wage and right to work. There is very strong support amongst a good number of republicans in both the House and the Senate for Local 49 members. We are very optimistic that we can work with them to ensure that our union and construction wages are not attacked.  

We will have to remain diligent, but the time we have spent and the sincere effort we have made to reach out to republicans in Minnesota has given us a great opportunity to work with the new majorities.

South Dakota

IM23, the ballot initiative that attempted to ensure that nobody could use our services for free was soundly defeated. It was a tough night in South Dakota for us, there is no sugarcoating it. We were trying to overcome 70 years of hostility towards unions, and we just couldn’t get past that hurdle to get people to understand the core issue. We must learn from this defeat. There are things that we believe we can build on, and things we learned didn’t work. But we must move forward. We will continue to push back against right to work in right to work states. Doing nothing is simply not an option.

This is round 1 of a 12 round fight. It is a fight we must continue to be in, and ultimately, if we stick with it, and get through the early difficulties, it’s a fight we can win.

North Dakota

Democrats in North Dakota suffered major defeats. Republicans were in control in North Dakota, now they are in complete control. There was a new Governor elected named Doug Burgum. Mr. Burgum is a developer, who has some experience building his projects using union labor. We are going to make a sincere effort to build a relationship with Mr. Burgum. We will try to find areas where we can work together on job creation in North Dakota, as well as making sure that the jobs that are created are good paying jobs for local citizens.

Overall

This is a tumultuous time in our nation, whoever you voted for, now we must move forward together. Now more than ever, it is critical for us to talk to the public and educate them on who we are and what we do. That work will continue, our plans will move forward. Our public relations efforts in Minnesota launch officially on November 21st. With time and effort, eventually we can get government focus away from attacks on unions and toward rebuilding this nation along with the middle class.

Operating Engineers should be hopeful, you are the best trained most highly skilled workers in the world. That doesn’t change with an election result. Neither does your resolve to maintain your ability to earn a good living. These are challenging times, but our union and our families have been through tough times before – and we will always get through them together.

A Message from Business Manager Glen Johnson Reflecting on Election Results

A Message from Business Manager Glen Johnson Reflecting on Election Results

We got hit pretty hard last night.

The Presidential election was a shocker and the GOP maintained control of Congress. We had a big loss with Angie Craig’s defeat. Republicans took control of the State Senate, overthrowing the most pro-49er caucus in recent history. Our ballot initiative failed in South Dakota and we lost 6 legislative races in North Dakota.

There was a bright spot in the success of Rick Nolan and Tim Walz, who both were in extremely tight contests. I am proud to say that the work our union did in those races made the difference.

So, yes. We got hit last night. We got knocked down. But today, the sun came up and we will continue to fight. If we are going to pass a long term transportation bill, squash any attempt to undermine our wages and industry standards, and advocate for our jobs, we need you to stand with us.

Operating Engineers will never back down. We will regroup, organize, and get back out there. The future success of our craft depends on it.

Unions Representing Dakota Access Pipeline Workers Call for Continued Law Enforcement Presence to Prevent Tragedy

Unions Representing Dakota Access Pipeline Workers Call for Continued Law Enforcement Presence to Prevent Tragedy


A coalition of Building and Construction Trade Unions from across Minnesota and North Dakota, whose members are building the Dakota Access Pipeline, released a statement today calling for continued law enforcement presence on the project, and thanked local agencies for sending personnel to help keep the peace.

In recent weeks, protesters have repeatedly entered active work sites, endangering hundreds of union workers.

“As members of organized labor, we fully support every American’s constitutional right to peacefully protest. However, when the safety of working men and women is disrupted by violence and intimidation, measures that protect public safety must be taken, “said Glen Johnson, Business Manager of Operating Engineers Local 49. “We thank law enforcement officers from all agencies for their commitment to maintaining our member’s right to a safe work environment.”

Click here to read the full statement.

Enbridge poised to provide jobs

Enbridge poised to provide jobs

Originally published in the Mesabi Daily News

 

“It’s the nature of the job to travel but it would be great if they could spend a year or two working at home near their families,” says Jason George Special Projects Director for Operating Engineers union Local 49.

George knows how important a project like the Enbridge Line 3 replacement could be for Iron Range workers and their families. He also serves on the board of Jobs for Minnesotans, a coalition of organizations representing business, labor and local governments all working together for the common goal of job creation in Minnesota.

Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 is a 1,097-mile crude oil pipeline extending from Edmonton, Alberta to Superior, Wis. It was installed in the 1960s. The company is poised to replace 282 miles of 34-inch diameter pipeline running through northern Minnesota with 337 miles of 36-inch pipeline to allow Enbridge to better respond to varying refinery needs. The project also includes the installation of eight pump stations. The update is expected to both restore historical operating capabilities and move 760,000 barrels per day.

As Shannon Gustafson, U.S. Public Affairs Supervisor for Enbridge Projects explained, “Approximately 1,500 family-sustaining construction-related jobs will be created in the U.S.,” for the construction of the Line 3 replacement. And this doesn’t include the many indirect and induced jobs that result as well.

“Local economies will benefit from this project through additional tax revenues, employment opportunities and spin-offs for goods and services needed to support construction and ongoing operations,” added Gustafson. “The project will also stimulate local economies through the purchase of goods and services from local retailers, hotels and restaurants.”

Enbridge also expects property taxes to increase about $19.5 million beginning the first full year the new Line 3 is in service.

Currently going through regulatory review, the Line 3 replacement could be ready for service by early 2019 pending approval, according to Gustafson.

Enbridge believes replacing the entire 1,000+ mile pipeline is in order, and wants to do so in a timely manner. The existing line that’s been in operation for more than 50 years has experienced corrosion, long seam cracking, and other defects common within that era utilizing high-strength steel pipe with polykin wrap coating. As a precaution, Enbridge has voluntarily lowered the pressure in the pipe, which has dramatically reduced the historical volume that can be shipped to its customers. This replacement project will inherently address the ongoing maintenance and integrity issues of Line 3 by improving efficiency and safety with a new pipeline built to the highest standards, explained Gustafson.

“It’s essential to replace Line 3, considering the role it plays in providing critical fuel for the region, while also mitigating the ongoing landowner and environmental impact of work continuously conducted on Line 3,” Gustafson has explained. “If the project is not permitted and built in a timely manner extensive inspection and construction digs/projects will continue, and increase dramatically in number, throughout the 282 miles within the state of Minnesota over several month/years. This would cause significant, sometimes unpredictable disruptions to landowners’ use of their property, as well as important environmental resources.”

George is also hoping the review for the Line 3 project will be completed in a timely manner. He’s worried the regulatory process may cause hang-ups like what happened to the proposed Sandpiper Project, which involved the construction of a 616-mile crude oil pipeline from Enbridge’s Beaver Lodge Station in North Dakota to Enbridge’s Superior Terminal near Superior, Wis. Enbridge withdrew applications for the project before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission this September after months of planning and review.

“If Minnesota can replace the needless delay in regulations, the project will provide a number of jobs for men and women that we’re all hoping will happen,” said George.

In the meantime, workers are still needed for integrity digs to maintain the existing pipeline. But these digs make it obvious to those who work on them that the pipeline needs replacing.

“Hundreds of people make their living on integrity digs,” added George of the workers who make their homes in northern Minnesota.

George is hoping the Line 3 project will breathe new life into pipeline work in this region and allow these hundreds of workers to work and live in the same area.

The replacement project could provide many years of good-paying jobs for the area. Once the replacement line is operational, the existing line will be deactivated in its place and the company has maintained that it will continue to monitor the deactivated pipeline.

According to information on the project, Enbridge asserts that deactivation in place is the most widely used method and safest option as it reduces the risk of soil stability issues, avoids major construction activities and reduces the potential risk to existing pipelines from heavy equipment. Monitoring will include continued patrolling of surface conditions, mowing brush, maintaining signage, and other response protocols.

Congressional Budget Committee Chairman Meets with Local 49 Health Fund Coordinator to Discuss US Health Care Policy

Congressional Budget Committee Chairman Meets with Local 49 Health Fund Coordinator to Discuss US Health Care Policy

Photo (from left) Congressman Erik Paulsen, Operating Engineers Local 49 Health Fund Coordinator, Martha LaFave and Chairman Kevin Brady 

Photographed by Kate Paul,  Executive Assistant to Congressman Erik Paulsen

 
As health care continues to be a controversial issue across the nation, political leaders from both parties are looking for unique solutions to the rising prices in health care costs and increased premiums under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Some political leaders are looking to multiemployer plans, and their unique health care structure for answers.

Labor representatives and employers that have an interest in the plan collectively manage multiemployer plans. They are designed to cover employees that work for multiple employers that are contributing to the plan, creating unique portability to move from one employer to another without losing coverage or changing plans. This eases administrative burdens for employers and also eliminates uncertainty of coverage for workers.

Multiemployer plans are structured to continue this type of coverage for employees and their families into retirement and even onto Medicare.

That approach caught the attention of Congressman Erik Paulsen, who arranged and participated in a meeting between Congressman Kevin Brady, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and Operating Engineers Local 49 Health Fund Coordinator Martha LaFave last week to discuss the multiemployer plan design, and the unique challenges multiemployer plans face due to the ACA.

The Operating Engineers Local 49 Health and Welfare Fund is the largest self-funded, multiemployer plan in Minnesota with 36,000 participants.

A self-funded plan is funded by employer contributions that are paid into the plan, in the form of a dollar amount per hour worked by the employee, or a monthly premium. Those funds are then used to pay claims and benefits for the participants in the plan

“There are numerous multiemployer self-funded health plans that cover millions of lives,” said Martha LaFave, the Operating Engineers Local 49 Health Fund Coordinator.

“These plans keep consumers out of the government-funded health care programs by providing coverage for employees when they’re working and when they’re laid off,” she added.

According to LaFave, the plan builds into the cost the idea that the employee will not work the full year, and will need to maintain insurance when they are laid off or unable to work.  The plan then maintains the coverage for the employee and their family while they’re not working.

“I appreciate learning more about the Local 49 Health Fund’s innovative health care coverage that is generating good and effective outcomes,” said Congressman Paulsen. “I commend their creative approach to ensure their participants receive coverage that is centered around the needs of patients and their families.”

Focusing on quality health care and giving participants in the plan the tools to make good health care decisions is key to the success of Local 49’s Health Plan.

“Our plan offers comprehensive medical coverage, a prescription drug plan, dental benefits, vision benefits, hearing aid benefits, death benefits, short term disability benefits, and several preventative programs to help identify health issues early, along with tools for participants to make good health care decisions and take control of their health,” said LaFave.

However, multiemployer plans are not completely immune to the challenges many health plans face in the world of the ACA. LaFave expressed to Congressmen Paulsen and Brady the unique challenges multiemployer plans face.

“With the overhaul of health care plans and the ACA guidelines, plans like ours are not acknowledged,” LaFave said. “Many of the documents that outline how the system will work do not mention multiemployer plans, and this creates a lot of uncertainty for us as we try to figure out where we fit in the system.”

LaFave explained that thousands of multiemployer plans across the country are trying to interpret their plan responsibility and the effects of the guidelines on those plans, along with the fees associated with them.

“With the number of lives we cover under plans like ours, the ACA should have language in it that address multiemployer plans; these plans impact millions of lives and should be acknowledged in the legislation.” she said.

LaFave also addressed in the meeting other challenges multiemployer plans face. Lack of regulation in prescription drug pricing and skyrocketing costs for needed drugs are one reason health care costs are increasing rapidly.  In addition, Mental Health Parity and the explosion of new residential treatment centers that lack standards and guidelines for treatment along with the cost of the services they are providing are creating strains on the health care system.

“As more Americans face higher health care costs and fewer choices, organizations like Local 49 Health Fund are developing new ways to deliver health care options that meet their participants’ needs and budgets,” said Chairman Brady. “I appreciate Congressman Paulsen’s invitation to hear from Local 49’s leaders about how they’re making health insurance more accessible, affordable, and patient-centered for their members.”

By bringing awareness to political leaders about multiemployer plans, and the success they have had in improving patient outcomes and managing costs, LaFave hopes multiemployer plans will have the voice in Washington, D.C. they deserve.

For more information on the Operating Engineers Local 49 Health Fund please visit www.health49.org.

 

North Dakota Delegation Calls for more Federal Law Enforcement due to Dakota Access Pipeline

North Dakota Delegation Calls for more Federal Law Enforcement due to Dakota Access Pipeline

On Monday, October 17, North Dakota delegates wrote to key administration leaders in Washington, D.C. asking for increased federal law enforcement due to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Senator John Hoeven, Senator Heidi Heitkamp and Congressman Kevin Cramer requested additional support from the Department of Justice, Department of Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers for state and local law enforcement in North Dakota. With increased protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline, the delegates wrote,  “It is essential that law enforcement has the resources they need to ensure public safety.”

Click here to read the full letter.

Don’t be bullied or mislead on Initiated Measure 23

Don’t be bullied or mislead on Initiated Measure 23

By: Jason George, Director of Special Projects

Originally published in the Argus Leader

 

The fear-mongering has already started when it comes to Initiated Measure 23. It’s a simple, one-sentence ballot measure that would require a small number of people to pay for services they choose to use. And in South Dakota, union workers are the only people (at least, so far) that are forced by government to provide services to others who choose to pay nothing.

Let me give you an example:

Many belong to health clubs. There is a payment you make to use their equipment. If you do not pay the fee, they tell you to leave, and you are not allowed to use their equipment. That’s fair. That’s the only way they can stay in business. Imagine they were forced by government — under law — to allow people to keep using their equipment without paying. That is the exact situation union workers face in South Dakota today.

There is a loophole in the state’s old 1946 “right to work” law that literally encourages people to drop out, not pay and still receive all the benefits of a negotiated agreement, while their co-workers pay for the negotiators, staff to watchdog the agreement and other benefits like extended family health care and pension plan management.

IM23 simply aims to close this “freeloader loophole.” It doesn’t eliminate anyone’s right-to-work. It doesn’t force anyone to join a union to have a job. It doesn’t force anyone to use services that they don’t want. It applies only to less than 1 percent of people in South Dakota — those that choose to work at a place that has a collective bargaining contract without paying their share.

Recent mailings put forward by the National “Right To Work” Committee purposefully mislead voters about IM 23. It’s important to ask why big business so adamantly supports government telling anyone that they have to provide their services for free. Big business has long fought hard to keep government out of people’s business.

The answer is simple. Big business loves government interference when it helps keep wages low by weakening workers’ ability to bargain. By misleading voters on IM 23, big business groups strive to maintain the status quo. They support government intrusion in the workplace to encourage freeloaders. And weakened bargaining means South Dakota’s workers make $9,910 less annually than the national average. S.D. has the lowest wages compared to all its neighboring states.

I hope the people of S.D. see through these fear-mongering tactics, understanding the motives. I know unions may be unpopular with many in S.D. There are a lot of reasons for that, including some of our own causing. But I would hope that South Dakotans choose to be fair, even to groups they might not always agree with. It’s just not right that the government forces union workers to subsidize those that benefit, yet choose to freeload, getting the same services. For nothing.

On Nov. 8, the voters of South Dakota can side with big business, fear and misleading facts or with S.D.’s workers. It is time to put a stop to freeloading in South Dakota.

Vote “yes” on Initiated Measure 23.