LIUNA Minnesota & North Dakota Respond to Governor Tim Walz’s Bonding Proposal of $2.03 Billion

Jan 15 2020

LIUNA Minnesota & North Dakota Respond to Governor Tim Walz’s Bonding Proposal of $2.03 Billion

Saint Paul, MN – Today, LIUNA Minnesota & North Dakota responded to Governor Walz’s bonding proposal. 

“Local projects across every part of Minnesota are shovel-ready, the bonding money is there and our members can help get the work done,” said Joel Smith, President and Business Manager. “We appreciate Governor Walz and his administration for presenting a plan that begins to meet the needs of our communities all around the state.”

LIUNA members and leaders often do general construction work in the regions they also live in. They know first-hand that if state lawmakers fail to pass a bold bonding bill, local communities will be left with lingering infrastructure problems that may get bigger and more expensive to fix down the road. 

“We have members that are skilled and qualified to fix aging water infrastructure and clean up contaminated water sites –  like the Esko Superfund site –  but there hasn’t been money to do the work,” said Dan Olson, Business Manager of LIUNA Local 1091 in Duluth. “Governor Walz’s $300 million proposal for water quality and infrastructure improvement offers a real solution to finally deal with the cancer-causing waste that has tainted that groundwater for over twenty years.”

The Governor’s plan includes nearly $400 million to help communities get to the finish line fixing local aging roads, bridges and transportation infrastructure so Minnesotans can travel and stay connected safely. 

Brad Baird has been a construction laborer and LIUNA member for 15 years. He has done concrete work on windmill sites, built railroad tracks, laid sewer pipe, poured asphalt, and built streets and bridges.

“I worked on the St. Croix Crossing bridge for two years and live in the area. My regular commute is 40 minutes shorter since it opened – giving me more time to be with my family,” Baird said. “There are hundreds of projects across the state that will improve lives and put people to work. Governor Walz’s plan will do that.”

Middle and low-income Minnesotans are finding it increasingly difficult to afford to rent or buy a home, including many of LIUNA’s 12,000 members in Minnesota. Legislators can leave this session with Minnesota in a better place on safe, affordable housing, and furthermore, end the exploitation of workers who build these projects by attaching wage, benefit and safety protections to public dollars.

Derek Brown has been a union laborer for 4 years. He worked on a remodeling project at a Saint Paul public housing complex last summer and built relationships with tenants there. 

“We traded jokes on a daily basis and celebrated together in those moments when a new working fridge was installed, or when a bathroom floor was completed,” said Brown. “As a laborer and someone who also rents, it is gratifying to help create a nice and sound home for others who need it most.” 

Governor Walz’s higher education package includes $488 million to upgrade and modernize two- to four-year higher education institutions across the state. By approving this proposal, lawmakers can set Minnesota on the course to help future generations thrive.

John Joki, a 34-year construction laborer and LIUNA member recently helped reconstruct Pioneer Hall at the University of Minnesota, which was no longer a feasible place for students to live anymore. 

“It’s a reality that campuses across the state have deficient structures,” he said, “with all kinds of problems such as mold, lacking air conditioning, poor wheelchair access and faulty plumbing. Governor Walz’s bill is an opportunity to restore Minnesota's campus infrastructure back to the level we once knew.”

The Local Jobs and Projects Plan is the largest bonding proposal in state history.

“We’ve done harder things before,” said Smith, “and we can do it again.”