MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When lawmakers failed to pass a statewide bonding bill it dealt a huge blow to the construction trades. The billion and a half dollars spent on public projects would put thousands of Minnesotans back to work, and the trades are already reeling from COVID-related delays.
On the west side of downtown the buzz of progress is in clear view. Construction workers hanging steel and pouring concrete at a time when many of their fellow trades workers are sitting at home.
Iron Workers’ Union Local 512 represents more than 2,200 union members across Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. But uncertainties of COVID-19 are resulting in project delays and cancellations, and a long-lost summer.
“If our members are working, they’re spending money, they’re buying cars, they’re purchasing homes, they’re paying taxes. Without jobs, none of that will get done,” Local 512 business manager Barry Davies said. “We’re down about 22% from last year.”
Dropping to 7.7%, the state’s unemployment picture is slowly improving. But a big exception is construction. Davies said that the 2020 is shot, largely because mega projects — like hotel and apartment construction, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport additions, and a massive indoor waterpark at the Mall of America — are now stalled.
Add to that the lack of a statewide bonding bill and nearly 9,000 construction workers are jobless.
“Even if the bonding bill gets passed in September like they had talked about, none of those projects will be ready to go before spring,” Davies said.
So for many in unionized trades, it means leaving home to find work in other states, a necessary sacrifice to put food on the table.
Besides construction trades, people working in leisure and hospitality continue to be hardest hit by ongoing COVID-19 concerns.