Joe Abeyta, an eight-year member of Local 49, is running for State Representative for District 5B, which covers most of Itasca County as well as a portion of Cass County.
Joe is a proud northern Minnesotan who moved to Grand Rapids in 2009 after 25 years in Arizona and a deployment in Iraq as he also served ten years in the Arizona Army National Guard.
Joe has been working in the construction industry for most of his life, but it wasn’t until 2012 when he finally joined Local 49.
“Coming from Arizona, I wasn’t familiar with unions, but after I started working for Magnetation I began to see the benefits, wages, job protections, safety standards, and retirement options that Local 49 provided. From then on, I was never going to work non-union again,” Abeyta said.
“When I got into the mining industry and began operating more equipment, I fell in love with what I was doing, and I felt good at the end of the day knowing that I’m making a difference in people’s lives,” he added.
Currently, Joe works for KTM Pavement and will soon have to balance between working full time as an operator and hitting the campaign trail.
“I became interested in running for office after spending time at the Capitol for Lobby Day with Local 49, and myself, along with 15 other 49ers, we met with our representative to talk to her about getting funding for transportation. She told us that nothing is going to change, and the funding they had in the past has been working. I just found that unacceptable.”
“Also, after talking to community members in our district, there is a lot of discontent for our current representative. There is a real need for someone to start speaking on behalf of the people of the district, and I’m in a position to do that.”
Abeyta also serves as a city council member for the city of LaPrairie and, over time, has seen what the real needs are of his local community and district.
“Continuing to increase transportation funding is crucial. Our community is continuously put at the bottom of MNDOT’s priority list, and a lot of that has to do with that with our lack of representation. Education is also a huge subject for me. Educators up here are voicing their concerns about legislative processes and the wrongdoing that has happened over the last several years that have hurt educators and their ability to teach. I also am focusing on economic development.
Abeyta has been hitting the campaign trail hard over the winter and says the momentum will continue even while he’s working.
“My biggest challenge will be balancing work and campaigning, but my family has been supportive, and ultimately that’s why I’m running is to secure a future for my kids. My employer has also been very supportive, and so that helps a lot.”
Abeyta says that his involvement with Local 49 has also given him a tremendous amount of support and confidence to run.
“Jason George and Julia Donnelly are the two biggest reasons why I even think I can do this. When they were our political directors, I worked with them through the Magnetation contract issues, and the confidence they have given me in myself was remarkable. If not for those two, I don’t think I could do this. They have given me the tools to legislate and advocate for myself and others.”
The campaigning has only begun, but Abeyta says he’s ready and willing to have those tough conversations to ensure he serves the needs of everyone in his district.
“I’m excited to be running, and I’m encouraged by the amount of support I’ve had to run for this seat. Whether someone’s a republican or democrat, I want to have that conversation about what we need to do to progress. Doing nothing is not the answer.”