“On time and under budget.” That’s a motto union workers live by, and this summer, a group of 15 Boots on the Ground union volunteers proved that ethic extends beyond jobs they get paid for.
In 2012, the Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge, which runs along the Mississippi River through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, opened the La Crosse Visitor Center in Onalaska, Wis. Covering 240,000 acres, the refuge encompasses one of the largest blocks of floodplain habitat in the Lower 48 and offers both scenic beauty and productive fish and wildlife habitat. The Visitor Center serves as a gateway to the refuge and features exhibits, meeting rooms, interpretive presentations, trails and observation areas.
With the support of the Western WI Building & Construction Trades Council (BCTC) and Western WI AFL-CIO, union volunteers laid landscape pavers around the Visitor Center kiosk on July 31, saving the refuge $11,000 that can now be used for conservation and education programs. When USA’s Boots on the Ground Program Manager Tim Bindl showed up at the site 30 minutes early, volunteers representing the Laborers’, Bricklayers, Plumbers & Pipefitters, Firefighters, Insulators and Cement Masons were already hard at work, spreading the foundation.
“We are thankful we can give back to the communities that we live and work in,” said Terry Hayden, business manager of UA Local 434 and president of the Western WI BCTC. “This project was a great example of what the Union Trades do every day on the jobsite. There was no wandering around. These guys showed up ready to work and knew what to do to get the job done for the customer.”
With a compactor and skid steer donated by Hengel Brothers Inc. of La Crosse and a paver saw donated by Market & Johnson of La Crosse and Eau Claire, the volunteers backfilled gravel, leveled sand, installed pavers and finished the entire project that was expected to take a full day in just eight hours.
“We want to express our appreciation for all your efforts. ‘Unbelievable’ is the word used by several of our staff,” said James Nissen, La Crosse District Manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “It was a very professional job completed by a very professional crew. On behalf of our staff and the many thousands of visitors who will benefit from all your hard work, we thank you.”