The MN Legislative Session is ending today. We were very active this session, as we always are, focused on the same core things we always focus on: growing JOBS, and our UNION.
Here is a quick synopsis of what happened that impacts our core issues, and a quick update about infrastructure money at the Federal level.
We successfully lobbied to increase spending on transportation infrastructure by $400 million dollars this session. This is in addition to the billions of new money we have added to the system in the last 3 years. Work hours are at historic levels in Minnesota the last three years, and that will continue because of this.
Here are some of the areas that will see increases under the transportation bill that was passed:
- State road construction budget increased significantly
- Money for specific big projects around the state in the bill
- Local Bridge fund increased
- Township Road funds increased
- More money for local cities and counties to upgrade their roads (helps public sector members)
This was a big win for Local 49 – we always lead the effort for increased investment in transportation infrastructure (often alone), and our relationships on both sides of the aisle have led to broad agreement on this issue. The bill in the Senate passed 67-0, and it passed with only a few no votes in the House. While the political parties fight about everything else, they are coming together to rebuild MN and create jobs for us.
- Right to Work – no hearings on this and no discussion
- Prevailing Wage – no discussion and no hearings other than expanding it to wind and solar projects, nothing about taking it away at all
- Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said on the floor of the Senate very publicly that he and his caucus will never pursue Right to Work, and or ever pursue getting rid of Prevailing Wage (a major statement and big win to get on record)
Policy Items of Interest
- We secured $100,000 investment for school districts to help kids take operating engineers classes for high school elected credits all across the state – IUOE created this curriculum, and kids are learning the basics of equipment, grades and stakes, and other items right now so that when they graduate high school they can join our apprenticeship program
- Our effort to pass a bill that would require oil refineries to use contractors with registered apprenticeship programs went down to the last days of session but fell short – we will bring this back next year
- The legislature did pass a bill that we supported requiring refineries to have full time in house fire departments which is a step in the right direction on safety
- We defeated an attempt by IBEW utility locals to incentivize power companies to use their workers to do outside construction work – they tried to sneak it in, and we stopped it cold – we will never allow this to pass at the legislature, nobody is going to incentivize companies to steal our work
Future job money
- Right now the legislature just before they adjourn are trying to find a way to get another $500 million bonding bill done that would be focused on transportation infrastructure
- We have been quietly helping push this for months, it is longshot to come together at the last minute before they adjourn – this would be hundreds of millions in more new money for our work on top of what is already done in the transportation bill described earlier
The legislature decided to wait until next year to spend $1.2 billion in covid money from the federal government. We will be lobbying them to invest a good chunk of this money into transportation infrastructure as well. There is also $109 million in new infrastructure spending dollars from covid relief, largely for broadband, that will be spent this Summer.
Federal Infrastructure Deal
President Biden and Senate Republicans reached a compromise deal to fund infrastructure for the next 8 years. This deal will double the size of the federal investment in all types of infrastructure, including road and bridge funding. The final investment will be $1.2 trillion dollars.
This bill needs to be passed by Congress, and we expect it will this Summer. This is great news for Operating Engineers across America. In our jurisdiction, because we have added so much new money to our own transportation infrastructure budgets, it will allow us to get more of this money here in Federal matches.
When this deal goes through, it will secure strong work hours for highway/heavy, public sector, equipment shop rental, and other industries we work in for the next decade.
Our International Union Leadership deserves a ton of credit for this. We have been pushing for a long time, including here at Local 49, for this kind of investment. Without our collective efforts in DC and at Locals across the country, this would not be happening.
Politics are something none of us like. But as you can see in this report, and as we have been talking about for years, it is critical for us to be involved, and have the right relationships with the right elected officials. So much of our work, and every aspect of our rights as union members depend on it.
We will continue to do what we have been doing. Staying out of social issues that you don’t pay us to get involved in. Working with democrats and republicans equally and pushing them to work together to support our jobs and union rights. Making sure when we talk to you about politics or endorsements, we are only talking to you about issues that impact your jobs and your union.
It’s a great time to be a 49er, work safe the rest of the year, and get those hours in.