MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new council has been created to protect construction workers rebuilding the Twin Cities, called the Building Dignity and Respects Standards Council. It was introduced by local leaders Tuesday.

An apartment building that burned down in the days after George Floyd’s death is just one of dozens of buildings getting rebuilt just within a few blocks in South Minneapolis, and the purpose of the council is to make sure it’s all rebuilt fairly.

In the construction industry, you have union workers and non-union workers. The new council cited complaints from non-union workers about wage theft, child labor violations, unsafe working conditions and even racist threats.

Some of these allegations are illegal, but are not easy to enforce without a union, or if they are, for example, an undocumented immigrant. The BDC is designed to enforce and inform workers and companies of their standards.

When the BDC was officially introduced, both Twin Cities mayors and the attorney general shared why it matters to them now.

“So often in our progressive spaces we talk about equity but we don’t know what it is,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter III said.

“Our entire city has been built by a working labor force and at times that labor force has been taken advantage of in many ways,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said.

Attorney General Keith Ellison added, “It is part of the road to a fair economy and it is an essential building block to a fair economy, but let’s start here.”

One reason why someone may pay less than minimum wage is perhaps because they cannot afford to pay them minimum wage. Minneapolis and St Paul are both working towards $15 an hour minimum.

If wage theft starts getting more strictly enforced, companies who violate it will have to figure out how to spend their money differently.

Christiane Cordero