Union praises Edina schools, blasts Minnetonka district on child labor complaints

  • Article by: KIM MCGUIRE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 29, 2014 - 1:34 PM

A laborers union said it found the violations at school sites as districts add on to prepare for all-day kindergarten classes in fall.

As one of the two child labor complaints directed at Minnesota schools was resolved last week, the other remained the subject of dispute and investigation.

Leaders of a local laborers union said they are satisfied with the Edina School District’s swift response to their complaint about a minor working at a Cornelia Elementary School construction project.

However, the union continued to demand further investigation into another alleged child labor case in Minnetonka, in which it says a 14-year-old boy was working at a school site. Officials in that district said they were not sure how old the boy was due to conflicting reports from the union and their contractor.

The unusual cases arose during a summer when many school districts are adding or renovating classrooms to prepare for expanded all-day kindergarten classes in the fall.

In the Edina case, the union filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor and the Minnesota Department of Labor Industry on July 1, alleging that a boy was working on a project at Cornelia, where the school district is adding kindergarten classrooms.

Tim Mackey, business manager for the Laborers Local 563, spoke at a recent school board meeting, offering praise to Superintendent Ric Dressen, who launched an investigation following the union’s complaint.

“When our union informed Superintendent Dressen that an apparent 13- or 14-year-old was performing dangerous work on the project, the incident was immediately investigated and action taken, both to protect the child in question and to let contractors know that the Edina School District does not condone the use of unsafe child labor,” Mackey said.

Two weeks after the incident at Cornelia, the union filed a similar complaint about a boy whom union members saw working on a construction project at Scenic Heights Elementary in Minnetonka.

Minnetonka school officials initially thought the boy was 17 and working for his father, a subcontractor at the site. They criticized the union for “harassing” the boy.

On Thursday, the union responded, saying that it reviewed public records that showed the district’s statement to be “wrong and misleading in every important respect.”

Those records show that the young worker is 14, not 17, and is not a contractor’s son, the union said.

It said it has given that information to state and federal investigators.

On Friday, school officials said they do not know how old the boy is and will defer to the investigating agencies to determine what happened.

 

Kim McGuire • 612-673-4469

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