LOCAL WORKERS PROTEST ABUSE OF GUEST WORKER PROGRAM ON WALNUT GROVE CONSTRUCTION PROJECT

Building Trades representatives will deliver a letter to the Meadowland Co-op board urging the Co-op to hire contractors that employ locals, rather than relying on temporary foreign workers to build major projects like the ongoing expansion of the Co-op’s grain facility in Walnut Grove, MN. (If the wireless network signal is sufficient this event will be broadcast live on the MN & ND Laborers District Council Facebook page. Please view it and share it.)

The Mankato Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents union construction workers across southwest Minnesota, today announced a planned a press conference at 12:00 PMThursday, May 25 at the main offices of Meadowland Farm Co-op in Lamberton, MN. Building Trades representatives will deliver a letter to the Meadowland Co-op board urging the Co-op to hire contractors that employ locals, rather than relying on temporary foreign workers to build major projects like the ongoing expansion of the Co-op’s grain facility in Walnut Grove, MN. 

 

Genuine Builders, which was hired to place concrete for the 2.8 million-bushel storage facility, has been identified by the Mankato Building Trades as a top user of a controversial H2B visa program that allows companies to employ foreign guest workers for construction tasks that are typically performed by locals. Between January and July 2016, Genuine Builders applied for nearly 900 H2B visas for construction laborers – nearly twice as many as the second-leading applicant and a fifth of the roughly 4,100 applications filed across the U.S. during that period. Genuine Builders’s request to employ 25 H2B workers at the Walnut Grove facility was certified on Feb. 8 (see here).

“Companies like Genuine Builders that use foreign guest workers are taking food off the tables of union and nonunion workers construction workers in southwest Minnesota,” according to Mankato Building Trades President Stacey Karels. “There’s no shortage of hard-working locals who would have been happy to work on a big project for Meadowland Farm Co-op, and for Genuine Builders to pretend otherwise is just an insult to working families.”

Nate O’Reilly, a Business Agent for Ironworkers Local 512, explained that the unions are also concerned by Genuine Builders’ history of exploiting H2B workers and breaking program rules. “In 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor required Genuine Builders to pay more than $180,000 for wage and overtime violations, and for taking H2B visa workers outside their authorized area,” said O’Reilly.

“They claimed it was an innocent mistake,” continued O’Reilly, “but in 2015, we caught them in Glencoe with H2B workers who were supposed to be in South Dakota and who said they’d been all over – North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Washington State. It seems like for Genuine Builders, the fines and back wages are just a cost of doing business.”

Laborers’ Union Local 563 member Joe Navejas believes that Genuine Builders has made it virtually impossible for locals to get jobs on their projects. “I went to a Genuine Builders project to apply for a job, but no one seemed to know how it was supposed to work. It took three visits just to get a job application, and on my last visit, security threatened to have me arrested for trespassing because I didn’t work there. I submitted the application anyway but never heard anything from the company. The message is local workers need not apply.”

“The purpose of this event is to let Meadowland know that we don’t think doing business with Genuine Builders is consistent with the values of a co-op with a long history of supporting local families and communities.,” said Karels. “We want to draw attention to the problem so future projects will be built by area workers who can support their families and the local economy.”

Genuine Builders Press Conference At-A-Glance:

Who: Representatives of Mankato Building and Construction Trades and local workers who will express concern over the hiring practices of Genuine Builders at the Walnut Grove project.

Where: Outside Meadowland’s main offices, 109 1st Ave W, Lamberton, MN 56152

When: Thursday, May 25 at noon

Why: To raise awareness of the abuse of H2B policy by Genuine Builders and to call on Meadowland Farms Co-op to cease doing business with Genuine.

 

Attention Editors and Reporters: 
This media event will be broadcast live on the MN & ND Laborers District Council Facebook page and can be linked to further develop your stories. All newsmakers involved in this live event are also available to be scheduled for interviews.  To make coordinating easy and hassle free contact media liaison Robb Leer 612.701.0608  

About the Mankato Building Trades 
The Mankato Building and Construction Trades Council is the voice for unionized construction workers in southwest Minnesota. We are affiliated with 65,000 member strong Minnesota Building Trades, which has provided leadership and advocacy for construction workers in Minnesota for 60 years.