In Response: Unions fight for better treatment, training, wages

Gene Stevens.jpg
Gene Stevens

In his May 4 “Local View” column in the News Tribune, construction professional Ryan Alvar wrote that he wanted to “help educate (us) less-informed picketers.” (His column was headlined, “Offer Minnesota nice to non-union, non-local contractors.”)

Hiring local companies supports our local economy, and it puts our local manpower to work. In turn, local workers spend their hard-earned money here in our community with our local businesses.

The column mentioned that Minnesota companies are expanding throughout the country. That is true. But when they do expand, they typically hire local labor. The contractor mentioned in the column, who was being picketed by union supporters, has not done that; he brought his own crew here to work.

On union vs. non-union: I have been on this picket line with my union brothers. I am a proud third-generation union member and 30-year member of Sprinkler Fitters Local 669. Working for my local contractors has provided my family a wage which enables us to buy local and pay local taxes, which supports our local economy. Our local union workers are highly trained professionals who can put up any building from ground to finish, and we have always been productive and efficient; our quality is second to none.

I have worked with Alvar for many years at two different union companies. I never knew him as a union employee but as an unrepresented office employee. He should know there is a difference between union and non-union and the quality of work. Union companies he worked for had to send out union service technicians to fix poorly installed sprinkler systems that were put in by inadequately trained and often-unlicensed non-union workers. So he knows there is a difference.


As for his comment to read the Constitution, we have read the Constitution. The First Amendment is freedom of speech. No one should think we are uneducated or less-informed, as the column suggested.

As for “Minnesota nice,” instead of bringing non-union, non-local contractors hot coffee, why don’t we offer to organize them into our unions? They would get the training they need from the unions to help keep them employed. Having highly trained workers benefits our local contractors and keeps up our tax base. Unions also provide their workers with health care and good pensions. This is the best Minnesota nice I can think of.

I am proud of the members who stood on the picket line described in the May 4 column informing the public of the out-of area contractor. We all need to remember that unions fight for better training and treatment for their workers, along with better wages, health care, and pension for their members. Without unions, we would all be working 80 hours a week and weekends for little or no pay and few benefits.

Shame on Alvar for the half-truths in his commentary.

Gene Stevens is a business agent for Sprinkler Fitters Local 669 in Duluth.

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