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Midwest Economic Policy Institute

A Higher Road for a Better Tomorrow

As Union Membership Declines, Inequality Rises

“There is a causal relationship between the density of union membership and income inequality over the long run. A 1 percent increase in union membership reduces the income share to the top 10 percent by 0.000514 percentage points. Given the average annual decline in union membership, that translates into the wealthiest 10 percent receiving an increase in income share of 0.00016 percent per year.” – David Trilling, Journalist’s Resource (2016)

The State of Minnesota’s Unions in 2016

Unionization in Minnesota is higher than the national average, at 14.1 percent. Veterans are among the most unionized groups in the state (21.2 percent). Unions raise wages by 11 percent and help close the racial gap in Minnesota.


This report is the fourth in a five-part series on the “State of the Unions” for Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. All five reports are available at this link.


A new study released today finds that organized labor still plays a considerable role in Minnesota’s economy, despite a decline of approximately 34,000 union members over the past decade.  Continue reading “The State of Minnesota’s Unions in 2016”

Construction Careers in Minnesota

Minnesota’s construction industry employs over 120,000 people and accounts for millions of dollars in the state’s economy. Investments in roads, bridges, houses, buildings, and other infrastructure all tend to increase the quality of life in Minnesota– supporting communities, improving business competitiveness, and growing the economy. Because Minnesota’s population is expected to increase by about one million people by 2030, finding the right workers to enter construction careers who can skillfully construct infrastructure improvements will be crucial to Minnesota’s long-term economic success.

A recent report, “Construction Careers Versus Construction Jobs: A Case Study of Two Construction Sectors in the Twin Cities Region,” by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute (MEPI) looks at the difference between construction careers and seasonal jobs in Minnesota’s construction industry. Continue reading “Construction Careers in Minnesota”

Prevailing Wage and School Construction

Opponents of prevailing wage say the law increases construction costs on all projects: federal projects, state projects, city projects, and even school projects.

In reality, school districts and their communities would benefit from passing a prevailing wage ordinance. Prevailing wage does not increase construction costs, but rather increases worker earnings and grows the economy.

80 percent of all peer-reviewed studies over the last 15 years find that prevailing wage has no statistical impact on school construction costs. Using state-of-the-art statistical methods, the studies have found no cost difference between schools built with prevailing wage and those built without prevailing wage. Continue reading “Prevailing Wage and School Construction”

Minnesota’s Clean Energy Sector

Minnesota has become a national leader in clean energy investments, ranking 8th in the country in total clean energy patents and ranking 7th in the nation for installed wind capacity. In 2014, wind energy accounted for approximately 16 percent of electricity generated in Minnesota. Today, Minnesotans receive more than 15 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, and biomass resources.

However, Minnesota consumes much more energy than it produces – ranking 33rd in total energy production in the United States. In 2014, Minnesota consumed 3.5 percent of the country’s total energy, yet produced only 0.54 percent according to a new Midwest Economic Policy Institute Economic Commentary [PDF]. To encourage future economic growth, the state should strive to produce as much energy as it consumes. Investment in new energy sources and new technologies should be considered to make-up this energy shortage.

MN Energy Table for Blog Continue reading “Minnesota’s Clean Energy Sector”

Unionized Construction Workers in Minnesota Get Back $5.59 for Every Dollar Paid in Dues

In Minnesota, construction workers are productive, high-skilled, and well-paid. Over 30 percent of these workers are members of a union. To maintain and increase membership, trade unions in Minnesota must continually demonstrate how workers benefit from contributing dues.

An analysis by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute (MEPI), The Impact of Construction Dues in Minnesota: An Organizational and Individual-Level Analysis [PDF], finds that construction unions in Minnesota offer many positive benefits to members:

  • Union membership increases the after-tax income of construction workers by $7,720 annually;
  • Unions increase construction worker health insurance coverage by 13.1 percentage points;
  • Minnesota’s construction unions spend 75.5 percent of dues and fees on bargaining and representation;
  • Only 1.4 percent of all membership dues and fees collected by construction unions in Minnesota are spent on political activities and lobbying – or $17.47 annually per member; and
  • For every $1 paid in dues and fees, an estimated $5.59 is returned to members in the construction industry in after-tax income.

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 9.58.02 AM Continue reading “Unionized Construction Workers in Minnesota Get Back $5.59 for Every Dollar Paid in Dues”

The State of Wisconsin’s Unions in 2016

A new study released today finds that organized labor still plays a role in Wisconsin’s economy, despite a decline of approximately 136,000 union members over the past decade.

The study, The State of the Unions 2016: A Profile of Unionization in Milwaukee, in Wisconsin, and in the United States [PDF] was conducted by researchers at the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the School for Workers at the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

Declining union membership in Wisconsin has resulted from a number of factors, including the effects of Act 10 on the public sector and the continued loss of manufacturing jobs. Since 2006, Wisconsin’s union membership rate has declined by 6.6 percentage points, from 14.9% to 8.3%. In a one year period, from 2014 to 2015, union membership dropped 3.3 percentage points.  As a result, there are over 150 fewer labor unions and similar worker organizations in Wisconsin than there were ten years ago.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.17.50 AM

In Wisconsin:

  • Men are more likely to be unionized (10.4 percent) than women (6.1 percent);
  • Veterans are among the most unionized socioeconomic groups in Wisconsin (12.6 percent);
  • By educational attainment, the most unionized workers in Wisconsin hold Master’s degrees (17.0 percent) and associate’s degrees (9.6 percent);
  • Public sector unionization (26.1 percent) is five times as high in Wisconsin as private sector unionization (5.2 percent).

Efforts to weaken the labor movement in Wisconsin have disproportionately impacted these workers. Continue reading “The State of Wisconsin’s Unions in 2016”

The Fight for $15 Moves to Minneapolis

Minneapolis, Minnesota joins the “fight for $15.”

States such as New York and California have recently passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour statewide. Many municipalities such as Seattle and Washington D.C. have also passed legislation to raise the local minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The minimum wage was created to ensure that U.S. workers earn the compensation needed to maintain a minimum standard of living that protects the health and well-being of each worker. The minimum wage no longer ensures a worker affordable housing and a stable standard of living.

More and more cities and states are adopting higher minimum wages to increase citizens’ standard of living. Minnesota raised it’s minimum wage to $9.00 statewide for large employers – which is set to increase to $9.50 on August 1st of this year. Workers in the City of Minneapolis are hoping for a larger hike.

A report released yesterday by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute (MEPI), A Minimum-Wage Worker Cannot Afford a Modest Apartment: Evidence from Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Iowa, finds that full-time, minimum-waged workers in Hennepin County must earn $15.63 an hour to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment. Thus, $15 an hour for Minneapolis would help low-wage workers afford rent.

MW_MN Continue reading “The Fight for $15 Moves to Minneapolis”

Minimum-Wage Workers Cannot Afford One-Bedroom Apartments in the Midwest

A minimum-wage employee working full time cannot afford a modest one-bedroom apartment in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, or Iowa. In all five Midwestern states, the minimum wage should be at least $10.00 an hour.

Continue reading “Minimum-Wage Workers Cannot Afford One-Bedroom Apartments in the Midwest”

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