MANKATO — The Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council’s annual convention delivered an in-person request to guest speaker Governor Tim Walz and legislative leaders: call a special session to take up the unfinished business of the 2022 legislative session.

In addition to remarks by Governor Walz, the convention heard from Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and other elected officials, whether in-person or via video.

A man with a grey blazer stands at a podium between a man with a grey shirt and a man with a tan blazer in front of a sign that reads "BUILDING TRADES" and a logo of the state of Minnesota with a white hard hat

Steve Share/Minneapolis Labor Review

Governor Tim Walz (left) listened as Joe Fowler, president of the Minnesota State Building Trades Council (center), called on Walz to convene a special legislative session to pass a bonding bill and matching funds for the federal infrastructure act.

The convention also passed 14 resolutions including a call for a special session to pass a $1.4 billion bonding bill and to pass matching funds for the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Other resolutions supported including prevailing wage requirements on affordable housing projects, reducing the use of toxic materials in construction, and protecting workers and their unions.

The convention also passed a resolution citing the threats posed by climate change, the need for raw materials found in Minnesota for renewable energy technologies, and declared support for “safe and responsible copper-nickel mining in Minnesota.”

Meeting July 21-22 at the Mankato Civic Center, the State Building Trades convention drew about 220 delegates, alternates and guests. The Council’s 15 affiliated unions represent about 70,000 workers.

An audience is seated in front of a long table of panelists and two projector screens

Steve Share/Minneapolis Labor Review

Delegates from 15 building trades unions were represented at the convention.

Joe Fowler, business manager of Laborers Local 563, is president of the Council and chaired the convention.

In introducing Governor Walz, who received a standing ovation, Fowler noted that Minnesota’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic became a national model and that “Tim’s decisive action saved lives.”

“Minnesota was the first state in the nation that designated our building trades workers as essential workers,” Walz reminded delegates.

“I’m a union member myself,” said Walz, who was a high school social studies teacher and football coach before entering politics and winning six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Walz also served 24 years in the National Guard.

Earlier this year, the State Building Trades Council endorsed Walz for re-election.

“As long as I’m Governor of Minnesota, we will be a labor state,” Walz said. “I promise to be a labor governor, to support your rights, to move our state forward.”

“The issue of the day is how do you provide for your families,” Walz said. “We’re doing things right,” he said, citing record low unemployment, high budget surpluses, and low COVID deaths.

Delegates also greeted Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison with a standing ovation. Ellison is running for re-election for a second term and asked for — and received — the convention’s endorsement. “I know you’ll take care of us and take care of our membership,” Fowler told Ellison.

A Black man stands behind a podium speaking

Steve Share/Minneapolis Labor Review

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison speaking at the convention.

As Attorney General, Ellison has established a wage theft unit and worked to address misclassification of workers.

“My office only works well in relationship with you,” Ellison said. “I believe organized labor is the best chance working people have,” Ellison said.

“All the things you do in the Building Trades, our society owes you a debt of gratitude,” Ellison added.

This article first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Minneapolis Labor Review.

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