90 Years Building Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get email updates from Local 49

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

June 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


June 1, 2017

Take Action to Pass MN Transportation Project Funding!

Take Action to Pass MN Transportation Project Funding!

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

The message is simple:

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

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

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

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

— Jason George

Legislative and Special Projects Director

April 21, 2017

IUOE Hail Permit Approval for Keystone XL Pipeline

IUOE Hail Permit Approval for Keystone XL Pipeline

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

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

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

Click here to read the full statement.

March 24, 2017

Impact of Prevailing Wage on Military Veterans in Minnesota

Impact of Prevailing Wage on Military Veterans in Minnesota

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

Prevailing wage standards make construction employment more attractive for veterans and

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

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

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

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

• Supports veteran-owned construction firms.

Click here to read the full independent study.

February 23, 2017

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)


February 6, 2017

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

January 31, 2017

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. 

January 31, 2017

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.

January 24, 2017

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.

January 18, 2017

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.

January 13, 2017

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. 

December 15, 2016

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.

December 5, 2016

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.

November 29, 2016

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.


November 23, 2016

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.


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.


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.


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.

November 10, 2016

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.

November 9, 2016

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.

October 28, 2016