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NV conservation group supports FERC's transmission planning rule; Memorial Day weekend includes Tornadoes and record-high temperatures; A focus on the Farm Bill for Latino Advocacy Week in D.C; and Southeast Alaska is heating homes with its rainfall.

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U.S. Supreme Court allows South Carolina gerrymander that dilutes Black voters, Sen. Ted Cruz refuses to say if he'll accept 2024 election results, and Trump calls Mar-a-Lago search an attempt to have him assassinated.

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Smokey Bear thought only "you" could prevent forest fires, but decomposing mushrooms may also help, a Native American community in Oregon is achieving healthcare sovereignty, and Colorado farmers hope fast-maturing, drought-tolerant seeds will better handle climate change.

MN standards program could deter wage theft in construction trades

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Friday, March 8, 2024   

Non-union construction workers rallied in the Twin Cities on Thursday over renewed concerns about wage theft. In the push to build more affordable housing in Minnesota, advocates hope an emerging campaign convinces the industry to prioritize worker fairness.

Workers demonstrated outside the headquarters of Solhem Companies, which was the subject of a recent lien case where workers eventually recovered $41,000 in unpaid wages. The company is now pursuing an affordable-housing project in Edina.

Merle Payne, co-director at Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha, or CTUL, a nonprofit advocating for low-wage construction workers, said he hopes more developers embrace a socially responsible approach to their workforce.

"Large developers really set the tone by making decisions about who they're going to have work on their projects," he said. "Are they going to hire contractors that respect workers' rights, or are they going to hire contractors that have the lowest bid?"

He argued that they can set the right tone by joining the Building Dignity and Respect program, which calls for industry partners to adhere to standards that emphasize human rights. However, the independent regional program is voluntary, and Payne acknowledged that large developers have been slow to embrace it.

Solhem Companies did not respond to a request for comment for this report.

Minnesota has strengthened its wage-theft laws in recent years, including provisions designed to hold more lead contractors of projects accountable. However, Payne said that in trying to protect these workers, many of whom are immigrants, developers need to be persuaded to do their part.

"They're the ones that put all the money towards the project," he said. "So, when you follow the money, that's what really determines the wages and the working conditions of what's going to happen on the ground."

The standards program his organization is promoting is modeled after the nationwide Fair Food Program, which was designed to give marginalized farm workers a bigger voice. Retail buyers such as Walmart have signed on as participants.


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