Our Challenge

Building a Better Minnesota

Minnesota is the home to leading construction firms, and our skilled workforce is considered among the nation's safest and most productive. But Minnesota is not immune to challenges faced by the construction industry nationwide, including exploitation of immigrant labor and the erosion of quality standards.


A spate of cases of wage theft and even labor trafficking in Minnesota's multi-family housing construction industry have shown that the problems are more serious than many have assumed.  For example, Hennepin County Attorney, Mike Freeman recently charged Ricardo Batres of Crystal, Minnesota, with "one count of labor trafficking, one count of insurance fraud, and one count of theft by swindle." According to the Freeman:


"[Batres] sought out undocumented workers as employees of his contracting company to do framing carpentry and installing sheet rock. Because they were undocumented and fearful of deportation, Mr. Batres paid them less, worked them harder, put some of them in overcrowded housing without hot water and did not provide medical benefits."

 Unfortunately, the Batres case is just one of many cases of worker exploitation across Minnesota's construction industry.

The Digi-Key Expansion project case highlights how this type of worker exploitation is not just a Twin Cities metro issues, but a statewide
epidemic

In the summer of 2019, concrete workers working on the Digi-Key Expansion project described being subjected to wage theft, discrimination, abuse and intimidation.

 

 

The case was especially disturbing because the project in question was funded in part by taxpayers. Digi-Key, a leading distributor of electronic components, is in the midst of an ambitious $300 million expansion of the company‚Äôs campus in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. The project has received $44 million in state tax subsidies. Problems have dogged construction of the 2.2 million square-foot facility under the management of Chicago-based General Contractor McShane Construction Company.

 

Read the full Digi-Key story

 

 These two cases provide a small sample of the many documented cases of worker exploitation across Minnesota. The stories come from all corners of the state and across all types of construction, from new school construction in Wayzata that generated labor protests, to city-supported affordable housing projects in Rochester where wage theft allegations have surfaced

 

 The problems identified by advocates and community groups include: 


  •  Discrimination
  •  Wage Theft
  •  Worker Exploitation
  •  Substandard Work
  •  Avoidable Injuries 

 

We don't have to let these problems persist. We can build a better construction industry by insisting on high quality and safety standards, standing in solidarity with exploited workers, uplifting employers that do the right thing, and cracking down on those that are willing to cheat, steal and abuse workers to maximize profits or gain an unfair advantage in the market.