When it comes to home improvement, skip the hassle, hire union

framing10In over your head on a home-improvement job? Whether it’s a leaky pipe or a kitchen remodel, your best bet for quality and value is a union contractor.

Fortunately, Building Trades unions and their signatory contractors are making it easier than ever to get a bid or a price quote on residential work. [For a list of links to union contractors in Minnesota, see the Buy Union page.]

Paul Berg, director of public relations and training for the Minnesota Mechanical Contractors Association, advised homeowners to know their limitations.

“Things can go wrong in a hurry, especially when you don’t know what you are doing,” Berg said. “Fixing a loose plumbing fitting can quickly turn into a watery basement. And if you want to repair your furnace we’d advise sticking to changing the furnace filter.”

The MMCA’s website, MinnesotaMCA.org, maintains a list of union contractors available to install or repair residential plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems. All contractors on the list are licensed, bonded and insured.

“Having these qualifications makes sure you don’t end up with larger problems than you started with,” Berg said.

Union contractors are able to guarantee quality work because they team with local Building Trades unions to invest in training, from their intensive apprenticeship programs to continuing education for journeymen.

Electrical Workers’ unions in the Twin Cities, for example, invest over $3 million per year into worker training, IBEW Local 110’s Jeff Anderson said.

“We put a lot of stock in training,” Anderson said. “Being on top of the new products, especially in the residential industry, where electrical code changes quite frequently, a guy really does have to pay attention, know the rules. And we do.”

Union contractors aren’t hiring “people who are just giving something a try,” Anderson added. Union tradespeople are invested in their careers, and they earn wages and benefits befitting that investment.

“With a union contractor you know that they are paying their employees a living wage, including benefits, that they are paying taxes, and are not illegally misclassifying their employees,” said Tracy Madden, communications director for the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters.

Madden pointed to several contractors that do residential carpentry work in the East Metro area: MLR, 612-328-7749; J&K Builders, Inc., 952-473-5033; Lemke & Sons LLC, 651-665-9477; Parkos Construction Co., 651-455-0031; Tim Lemke Construction, 651-602-9001; and Trudeau Construction, 651-450-1238.

The IBEW will soon roll out a new website, featuring the union’s five-year guarantee on all work, for local consumers seeking residential services.

In the meantime, Anderson said, homeowners can call his local for contractor referrals at 651-776-4239.

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