When you think ‘blue-collar construction worker,’ do you also think ‘finely chiseled marble work’ or ‘meticulously restored century-old murals.’ Neither did we. Until we saw the majesty that is the recently renovated Minnesota State Capitol.
You see, 1,800 union construction workers spent the better part of three years transforming a 111-year-old outdated, crumbling, inaccessible building into a beautiful, modern People’s House.
Thanks to their 1.4 million hours of quality, union-trained labor, the 387,000 square foot Capitol in St. Paul now boasts enhanced hearing rooms, additional restrooms, new public meeting and gathering spaces, a visitor’s center, a classroom, a public information office, better wireless internet access, and full-ADA accessibility.
While the Capitol is largely known for the building where the state government conducts business, it’s also a public building. It’s ours! Each year the Capitol hosts 370 events, 13,000 tours, 120,000 public visits…and that’s not counting the government business conducted there!
But who made it possible and how? Well for starters, did you know that 40 percent of those 1,800 construction workers were women or people of color? Pretty impressive, especially when you consider who would have built it 111 years ago. (Speaking of, those construction workers earned less than $1 per day for their efforts.)
While union electricians, pipefitters, plumbers, mechanical insulators and others completed critical updates to electrical, mechanical and pipe systems, laborers and heavy equipment operators worked to harvest 6,000 pieces of marble from the same Minnesota quarry as the original Capitol. And they did all of this work with their union training. You see, all Minnesota union workers receive apprenticeship training at no cost to them. Union dues take care of that.
But don’t take our word for it. Here what Jeff Callinan, a Vice President at JE Dunn Construction had to say.
“We marvel and we look at the fine art, and we look at the stained glass and we look at the stone carving – and that’s all magnificent work, incredible. But putting modern day systems into a 1905 building is not easy. So the electricians and the plumbers and the sheet metal workers and the tile setters – the work they did to pack the systems seamlessly into this gem is in itself a marvel.”
That’s what your union friends and neighbors do. Every day. Most days, their projects are a bit lower profile – schools, hospitals, condos, parks, highways. But you and I depend on them all the same.
If you’re grateful for the quality craftsmenship of Minnesota’s blue-collar building and construction trade unions, give them a thanks, and maybe a little more, here.