Labor, Business, Community Unite: Building Vikings Stadium at Metrodome Is #1 Action We Can Take to Create Jobs

Stadium construction to create 13,000 construction jobs and $300 million in wages, plus 3,400 ongoing jobs

Labor leaders announce agreements with Vikings to keep project on time and on budget by using union labor, retaining union jobs; City, Vikings in talks to set aggressive hiring goals

February 6, 2012 (MINNEAPOLIS) — Leaders of organized labor, City of Minneapolis leaders, business leaders and non-profit community partners, flanked by scores of Minneapolis residents who are members of or training for employment in the building trades, united today to say clearly that the top action the Minneapolis City Council and Minnesota Legislature can take to create jobs is to support a new Vikings stadium in Minneapolis.

Estimates provided by the Minnesota Vikings show that the stadium would directly and indirectly generate 13,000 construction-related jobs and $300 million in payroll. It would also bring the total number of ongoing jobs at the stadium to 3,400.

Bill McCarthy, president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, said, “There is a jobs crisis in our city and our state, especially in the construction trades where unemployment is over 20 percent. We’re united today in proposing a solution to the crisis: building a Vikings stadium in Minneapolis.

“I thank Mayor Rybak, Council President Barbara Johnson and Governor Mark Dayton for their hard work to get the stadium built, and I thank the members of the Minneapolis City Council who already support it. I call on all members of the City Council and the Legislature to support the Mayor’s and Council President’s plan to build this stadium in Minneapolis,” McCarthy continued.

Mayor Rybak put it simply, “The number-one action that the City Council and Legislature can take to lessen the unemployment crisis in the construction trades and create jobs in our city and state is to build a Vikings stadium in Minneapolis. Labor, business and community partners in Minneapolis are united and ready to build a stadium using only Minneapolis’ existing tax dollars and no new taxes.”

Mayor Rybak turned to the scores of construction workers and trainees present. “Are you ready to get to work?” “Yes!” they roared back.

Referring to the workers, Council Member Diane Hofstede added, “This is the face of our community. These are the people we need to put back to work.”

City Council President Barbara Johnson pointed out that the Minneapolis stadium plan includes the opportunity to renovate the Target Center, another job-creating and revenue-generating facility of statewide significance. “The renovation of Target Center will create 1,100 more good construction jobs and 1,100 more full- and part-time jobs. The opportunity to create this many good jobs at once is one we cannot afford to miss.”

Mayor Rybak also pointed to the need to retain and add good jobs in Minneapolis’ hospitality industry, which generates $1 billion in payroll annually.

Business leaders present, including Sam Grabarski, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, and Todd Klingel, president of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, joined labor in voicing their support for a Minneapolis stadium and the jobs it will create.

McCarthy announced two jobs agreements between the Minnesota Vikings and labor unions:

  • A project-labor agreement between the Vikings and the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, which means that unions commit to building the stadium on time, on budget and with no disruptions in exchange for the Vikings’ commitment to use only union labor. McCarthy said, “This is good news for all Minnesotans.”
  • A letter of intent and a labor-peace agreement between the Vikings and UNITE-HERE, the union that represents concession workers at the Metrodome. These agreements mean that the Vikings will retain all the UNITE-HERE jobs currently at the Metrodome and will allow UNITE-HERE the opportunity to organize the additional concession jobs that will be created at the new stadium.

In addition, Mayor Rybak announced that the City of Minneapolis and the Vikings are in conversation about workforce agreements to set goals for hiring workers from communities and neighborhoods that have been particularly hard hit during the recession and have been historically underrepresented in the construction trades.

“We’ve had success with meeting and exceeding similar goals that we’ve set for other Minneapolis projects, such as Midtown Exchange, Coloplast and Amplatz Children’s Hospital, and we’ll do it again for a Vikings stadium,” Mayor Rybak said.

Louis King, president and CEO of Summit Academy OIC in North Minneapolis, which partners with unions in the construction trades to train workers from historically underrepresented communities, said, “We believe that the best social-service program is a job, but the young people that are our future need to have jobs to fill when they graduate. We are committed to being part of this project and to sharing in the benefits and the responsibility. If you build it in our community, our community will build it.”

Scott Gray, CEO of the Minneapolis Urban League, which also partners with unions to train workers, added, “This plan is right for our historically underserved community. This will be a true People’s Stadium, one that involves every community in building it.”

Lynn Littlejohn, director of community affairs at Mortenson Construction, told how Mortenson, which built Target Field, set and exceeded aggressive goals for local hiring and subcontracting, including women and minorities. She said that 95% of the labor and more than 90% of the contractors that they used were local. Over one-third of workers at Target Field were people of color and women, and 110 subcontractors on the project were minority- or women-owned businesses.


Being at the table helps Minneapolis taxpayers

As you probably know, City Council President Barbara Johnson and I have proposed a plan to lower property taxes in Minneapolis, fund the Minneapolis Convention Center and the Target Center, and contribute to a new Vikings stadium at the Metrodome. And we do all this by using existing Minneapolis sales and user taxes for Minneapolis — without raising any new taxes.

Why have we proposed this plan? Why is it worth the fight?

We’ve proposed this plan because it’s a good deal for Minneapolis taxpayers. And we’ve proposed it because without it, Minneapolis taxpayers could well end up with a raw deal.

That’s the difference between being at the table fighting for something — or walking away, not fighting and getting nothing, or worse.

3-for-1 plan for property-tax relief

I’ve said it over and over: property taxes in Minneapolis are too high. That’s why the City Council and I passed zero increase in the City’s property taxes for 2012.

We’ve worked hard to hold the line on property taxes in Minneapolis, despite drastic State cuts to our budget over many years: we’ve cut our own spending (now 9% lower than 10 years ago) and we fixed the broken closed-pension system that was the major driver of property-tax increases in recent years. In the process, we’ve paid down $183 million in debt and restored the City’s AAA credit rating.

But an ongoing drain on Minneapolis property taxes has been Target Center. Despite the fact that Target Center is a facility of statewide importance, only Minneapolis property-tax payers have been on the hook to pay off Target Center’s debt, to the tune of $5 million a year.

That’s just wrong. But despite the fact that the City Council and I have lobbied for years to get this burden off Minneapolis taxpayers’ backs, the State has not acted — and without a change, Minneapolis taxpayers alone will keep paying Target Center’s debt until 2025.

Now, for the first time — and only because Council President Johnson and I have been at the table fighting for a solution to the Vikings stadium — we have a realistic plan to move the burden of Target Center debt off the backs of Minneapolis property taxpayers and share it with all of the 18,000,000 people who visit and spend money in Minneapolis every year. And we can do it without raising any new taxes on anyone.

By keeping in Minneapolis existing, State-authorized sales and user taxes that are already collected here and currently dedicated to the Minneapolis Convention Center, we will not only lower property taxes on Minneapolis homeowners and business owners: we will continue to keep the Convention Center competitive, renovate the Target Center, and help find a solution for a new home for the Vikings. That solution includes a $1-billion new investment in our city that will create thousands of good jobs in the construction, service and hospitality industries.

What happens if we’re not at the table fighting for Minneapolis?

Some say that Minneapolis should just walk away from the table and not be part of this discussion. But this point of view turns a blind eye to reality — that the Legislature controls Minneapolis’ taxes and Minneapolis’ fate.

The existing taxes that Council President Johnson and I want to use for property-tax relief, for Target Center and the Convention Center, as well as for a new stadium, are ones that the Legislature has the power simply to take from Minneapolis at will.

If we were not at the table fighting to solve these long-standing stadium issues, the Legislature could — and in all likelihood, would — simply apply our taxes entirely to a new Vikings stadium, leaving Minneapolis homeowners out in the cold and still paying for Target Center debt. This would also leave the Convention Center and Target Center financially unsustainable, damage our strong hospitality economy and create even more of a burden for Minneapolis taxpayers.

That’s why we’re at the table, fighting for Minneapolis: because there, we can strike the best deal for Minneapolis taxpayers. If we weren’t there, who would fight for Minneapolis?

Our only choice: being part of the solution

When we face a problem in Minneapolis, we don’t walk away from it — we roll up our sleeves, listen to each other and try to solve it together. That’s the Minneapolis way, and that’s the way we’re working toward a solution to the long-standing property tax/stadium/jobs issue. But being part of the solution is Minneapolis’ only choice.

As we stay at the table and keep fighting for our city, I encourage you keep listening, ask questions and look closely at our plan to lower property taxes, build a stronger economy and keep Minneapolis taxes benefitting Minneapolis.