How Twin Cities construction workers are accessing free mental health services

Local Painters Union and its training school launch free treatment program for mental health and substance use disorders to members to tackle stigmas, save lives

  • Construction workers have the one of the highest suicide rates of any industry and are 7 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose than other workers.
  • To combat this, District Council 82 (DC 82) and Finishing Trades Institute of the Upper Midwest (FTIUM) have started the FTIUM Care Team, which will provide their 3,500 union members with access to free counseling.
  • Long-standing cultural stigmas surrounding mental health care often prevent workers from seeking help when in crisis. As part of its program, the FTIUM Care Team is launching mental health first-aid courses to help men in construction notice signs of crises before they happen
FTIUM Care Team logo

LITTLE CANADA, MN – To address the high suicide and substance misuse rates in the construction industry, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82 (DC 82) and the Finishing Trades Institute of the Upper Midwest (FTIUM) are giving painters, drywall finishers, glassworkers, glaziers, and more, increased access to life-saving mental health services, substance use counseling, health consultation and more critical resources through a new program called the FTIUM Care Team.

Finishing Trades Institute of the Upper Midwest students and seasoned workers will all have access to this unique employee assistance program aimed at educating members, reducing stigma and encouraging craftworkers to seek help in times of crisis. The union hopes to not only prevent suicide among workers, but to help them live mentally healthy lives.

“Our goal is to encourage workers to ask for help when they need it and stop the stigma around mental health that pervades the construction industry,” said Jennifer Stanek, MS, PA-C, Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director at TEAM Wellness at Work. “DC 82 members can come to us right here at the training center and union hall. It’s a familiar place to them, and that alone helps members feel more comfortable asking for help.”

In the male-dominated field of construction, those who do seek help often fear teasing and emasculating bullying from their peers. This deep-rooted stigma surrounding mental health has proven to be deadly, in Minnesota and nationally. The shame connected with talking about issues such as depression has led to an extremely high suicide rate among construction workers, especially men. About 53 out of 100,000 workers take their own lives.

In addition to providing services, the union hopes to change the culture on job sites, equipping workers with the tools to spot warning signs of crisis among their coworkers. The union’s school has started a four-hour course called Changing the Culture of Construction, which is open to all 3,500 members and takes place after work hours. The coursework gives workers tools to develop compassion and empathy. They learn ways to initiate tough conversations that can save lives and help get each other the healthcare they need through the FTIUM Care Team.

DC 82’s Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer, Jeff Stark, said, “Our main goal has always been to help our workers succeed. We’ve seen that professional success isn’t only about showing up to work, learning skills, and getting paid. It’s about building a culture of support and wellness that helps members and their families in the long term.”

“What makes FTIUM and DC 82 different is that we create spaces for workers to be their whole selves,” said FTIUM’s Director of Academic Education, John Burcaw. “Some of our workers are starting to wake up to our industry’s historical toxic masculinity and how it hurts them and their peers. They’re beginning to recognize the immense strength that comes with talking about your struggles. We’re proud to be part of this important shift in the construction industry.”

A 2022 Holiday Message from Jeff Stark

Brothers and Sisters,

With the new year comes an opportunity to move forward with renewed purpose. Without the support of our members, DC 82 would not be where we are today. 

In 2023, let us continue to make strides by investing in our communities, organizing the unorganized, and giving workers everywhere access to good wages and benefits to raise a family and retire with dignity. 

Happy Holidays from everyone at the District Council. Thank you for being a part of our Union family. I wish all of you a New Year full of health and blessings.

Jeff Stark
Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer
IUPAT District Council 82

Apprenticeship programs can break down barriers and build bridges

Kailee Schminkey of Elk River always imagined a college degree as her pathway to a great career. She started out as a nursing assistant and personal care attendant—a job she loved—but soon realized she’d never earn enough to put herself through college. With Minnesota student debt adding up to a staggering $29 billion, loans didn’t seem like a viable option.

So Kailee chose a nontraditional but financially pragmatic approach instead, taking her dad’s advice and following him into the finishing trades as a painter. She applied to the Finishing Trades Institute of the Upper Midwest (FTIUM), and thanks to our union’s apprenticeship program, Kailee will earn her Associate of Applied Science in Construction Technologies degree from one of the best finishing trades colleges in the country. 

Instead of racking up student debt while she earns her degree, she is bringing home a paycheck from one of Minnesota’s top employers, and has an on-ramp to getting her bachelor’s degree at a top-rated university where she’ll have little to no student debt.

Here’s how it works: If a student is ready to start their apprenticeship, they’ll begin their paid training program. If they need a leg up before starting their apprenticeship, they get five free weeks of Worker Readiness training where they are given the background they need to make a seamless transition into our paid apprenticeship program. After they finish, students can go on to the school’s Associate’s program, where they can access multiple scholarships and financial assistance plans. 

Our state is getting more than $4.5 billion to overhaul crumbling roads and bridges. Over the next five years, about $302 million is expected for bridge replacement and repairs alone. The problem is we don’t have the skilled workforce we need to get the job done. It takes about three years for an apprentice to become an industrial painter specializing in bridge coatings. That means we need to recruit more apprentices like Kailee – and fast.

Our union, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82 (IUPAT DC 82) and FTIUM’s programs can help Minnesota meet both the challenge and the opportunity presented by this federal infrastructure funding. Our program can train the workforce we need to build and fix our roads and bridges.

Kailee’s example demonstrates that our apprenticeship program can tackle another challenge too: registered apprenticeship programs can break down long-standing barriers for women and people of color in an industry that has historically been primarily white and male. When FTIUM first started, we recognized how women and people of color have historically been overlooked during recruitment efforts. That’s why our efforts are focused on welcoming them to our programs. We now boast one of the most impressive diversity rates across the IUPAT. 

At DC 82, we’ve seen firsthand how ramping up efforts to recruit diverse apprentices enhances the effectiveness of our workforce. Our union program beats the state average with about one in five graduating apprentices being women or people of color, but we still have a long way to go. If we’re going to foster the workforce we need, we need to intentionally create new opportunities that will overcome historical disparities. 

If we succeed, we will open doors for thousands previously excluded from lucrative, family-sustaining careers and give them educational opportunities that provide real-world experience that many students can’t get at traditional four-year colleges.

When I asked Kailee about her experience, she told me, “I can do so much more than I could just two years ago. That self-growth is very empowering. I get to meet so many different kinds of people from all different trades, and I always have the opportunity to keep advancing and work my way up. There’s never a finish line. You can always go as far as you’re willing to take it.”

Apprenticeships can break down barriers and build bridges – literally and figuratively. For workers, especially women and workers of color, starting an apprenticeship means higher wages and more opportunities to climb the career ladder they might have never thought possible. For our communities, more apprenticeships mean more taxpayer dollars being put to work to fix our infrastructure and boost our economy. 

While many Americans view traditional four-year colleges as the “gold standard” of higher education, we are encouraging those ready for a life-changing career path to look to Kailee’s example and take the path less traveled. 

Our infrastructure isn’t going to be fixed by folks with traditional four-year college degrees – it’s going to be fixed by folks like Kailee who work hard, get their hands dirty, and get paid to become an expert in their trade. We need the training and support that comes from union-run registered apprenticeships to open up more doors and develop our future workforce.



Jeff Stark is the Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer of District Council 82. District Council 82 provides a voice for almost 3,500 workers in the finishing trades across Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and western Wisconsin. Our members are trained in a variety of industry needs, including industrial and commercial painting, drywall finishing, glazing, glass work, sign installation, convention workers, silk screen paint making and embroidery. Learn more at

Johnnie Forrest | DC 82 Spotlight

As a retired member of DC 82 Local 106, Johnnie Forrest is one of the few members who has done apprenticeships with both the glaziers and the painters. Johnnie has been a member of DC 82 for 30 years. 

“I’m very fortunate that when I was young, I actually thought about what having a pension would mean for me in the long term,” said Johnnie Forrest of DC 82.

“I’ve always had friends who weren’t considering that, and I’d always try to tell them the value of having that security. Now, they look at me and say, ‘Man, John, I wish we’d have listened to you.'”

Entering the union at a young age, your health and retirement benefits isn’t the first thing on your mind – but it makes a huge difference in your life. It’s a great opportunity to build a career, gain access to life-changing health benefits, and create a comfortable lifestyle for your future.

Some of the most meaningful benefits of DC 82 membership include being able to pay off your home, build a retirement plan, and enable you to enjoy life without financial worries. When you get older, you don’t have to keep working, because all the hours of work you put in when you were that young kid not needing your pension comes back around for you. 

“So many people have family members that I know that are still working into old age now that wish they had invested sooner,” said Johnnie. “With my health benefits, my first heart procedure was $86,000. My part of that was only $1,400 from being a union member.”

Johnnie’s story is just one of thousands that show the difference joining a union can make in your life. Thank you, Johnnie for your years of service, and enjoy your well-earned retirement! 

Statement: Historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Heads to President Biden’s Desk


ContactRyan Kekeris, 410-564-5884, [email protected]

STATEMENT: Historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Heads to President Biden’s Desk

HANOVER, MD – Following the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) President Jimmy Williams, Jr. issued the following statement:

“The passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act by the House last night is a huge step forward for our country. IUPAT members from coast to coast are ready to go to work on the projects that will be funded through the bi-partisan infrastructure bill and we thank those in Congress of both parties who put workers first and voted for the bill.

In order to truly move America forward, however, we need the additional investments of the Build Back Better reconciliation bill which will make progress toward fixing labor laws that are rigged against workers; invest in our care economy; and make real inroads to tackle the climate crisis. We  urge the House and Senate to immediately get to work to pass this historic investment in working people.

Together, these bills will help leverage the economic power of the United States to create quality, good paying jobs across sectors and allow our communities to grow and thrive. We cannot wait to act; the time is now to make the investments that will impact our country now and for generations to come.”



Represents a growing community of over 140,000 active and retired craftspeople in the United States and Canada. The IUPAT membership extends far beyond the workplace. Recognized as one of the most active unions in the labor movement, IUPAT members help shape their communities in many ways: through an abiding commitment to service, by fighting passionately for workers’ rights that benefit all working families, and through effective worker education and mobilization.

Visit to learn more.

Minnesota’s Working Class Will Repair our Bridge to a Bright Future

This past year, thousands of Minnesotans were out of work and struggling to even find the motivation to keep searching. When hard-working individuals learn that free career training is being offered at a local union, with job placement prospects, they are encouraged to sign up.

Becoming finishing trades workers may not have been on the table for many of our apprentices before 2020. Now that our infrastructure is getting ready for an overhaul and the older generation of workers are retiring, new opportunities are coming into view for many young Minnesotans. Their legacies will literally be written on the walls of skyscrapers.

As the Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer of one of the largest finishing trades unions in the Upper Midwest, I know firsthand how improvements to our infrastructure cause positive chain reactions. We could have safer roads and bridges, the environmental justice that comes with access to potable drinking water, and a modern public transit system – and those are just a few of the exciting changes in quality of life we could have coming down the pipeline.

When we think of infrastructure, we often think of roads and bridges. But rebuilding our infrastructure also means creating safer and more modern schools, libraries, public facilities, transit systems, and rural internet, an often-overlooked aspect to ensuring an infrastructure fit for the 21st century.

Unfortunately, the current funding level isn’t nearly enough to ensure that all of our apprentices will have consistent long-term work. Though a $1.9 Billion infrastructure bonding bill sounds like a lot to invest on paper, when all is said and done, that money will just about cover the foundational stages of the major projects Walz cited, but it likely can’t finish them. Governor Walz took an important first step, but it’s Minnesotans’ job to hold him accountable to increase that investment.

When funding for infrastructure isn’t robust enough, it can create serious ramifications that severely impact workers and taxpayers. Many contractors in our region could take advantage of our state government by low-balling their estimate on how much a project could cost. Wage theft in our region is still running rampant, primarily with employers misclassifying workers. If the project is awarded to those types of unscrupulous contractors, there’s a higher likelihood that they hire untrained workers who will be underpaid and taken advantage of, cut employee pay, or make expensive change orders to generate a higher profit margin – all while risking the health and safety of workers and the community. Are these risks Minnesota taxpayers are willing to take?

Right now, Biden is planning a robust federal package with “The Biden Plan to Build a Modern, Sustainable Infrastructure and an Equitable Clean Energy Future,” similar to the plans we have heard from past administrations. Unfortunately, those past plans have been full of empty promises. During Trump’s time in office, he presented an infrastructure plan. Unions were on board with a plan from any candidate that ensured that their members and potential members gained work opportunities. However, that plan relied on state and local funding along with private investments. Biden is now carrying the torch by enabling a federal infrastructure bill that empowers workers and communities and doesn’t rely on private corporations for funding.

The need for legitimate federal infrastructure funding has never been higher, and Biden has the opportunity to prove to Minnesotans that he stands with us and is willing to help us truly “Build Back Better.” 

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc and available hospital beds down to the single digits, we as taxpayers have no choice but to demand increased state and federal infrastructure funding immediately. Our rural hospitals have been in need of repair for decades, and construction industry experts are calling the $1.9 Billion infrastructure bonding bill, “too little, too late.”

Now is Minnesota’s time to take back our infrastructure.

A deeply-rooted bias that begs to be challenged is that government grants for small business owners or contractors is “free money.” What those that hold this bias often neglect to consider is how prospective entrepreneurs from wealthy backgrounds often receive large contributions from their networks throughout the process of launching their companies. Those that don’t come from money aren’t granted the same opportunities because they simply lack the financial infrastructure necessary. If more federal funding was given to small businesses, it would level the playing field for rural residents who would undoubtedly stimulate the economy and provide good-paying jobs for the community. If that doesn’t happen, what are we really doing as taxpayers?

Here at IUPAT District Council 82, we know that prioritizing small rural businesses will move us into a more equitable, profitable future. Our economy will thrive, our state will become a new model for modern American infrastructure, and our children and grandchildren will have safe, strong bridges into their futures.

Good workers always finish what we start. This $1.9 Billion bonding bill is surely a start, but it’s not going to fix our rural hospital system; it’s not going to prioritize rural residents who want to launch businesses; it may not even put our tax dollars to their best use. Tell Governor Walz to vouch for a more robust, inclusive infrastructure bonding bill today.


Jeff Stark is the Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer for IUPAT District Council 82.

Announcing the March 20th Truckload of Food Giveaway

In partnership with the St. Paul Building Trades and the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, District Council 82 will be distributing free boxes of fresh food at the DC 82 Union Hall parking lot.

Thanks to the USDA Farmers to Families program, DC 82 will supply each car with 25-30 pounds of fresh meat, dairy, and produce on a first-come, first-served basis. The event begins at 11 A.M. All volunteers will be fully equipped with PPE and will follow all COVID-19 guidelines set forth by the MN Department of Health.

Everyone is welcome to come and pick up food, and we are seeking volunteers! DC 82 needs volunteers to direct vehicles through the pickup line and lift boxes into trunks and back seats of vehicles. 

If you would like more information or want to help others in your community alongside our union, contact Jean Groshens:

(651) 379-9654
[email protected]
To follow the event live and get updates on food availability, visit Please share the event with your friends, fellow members, and family to help spread the word!

DC 82 Volunteers Participate in Food Giveaway on Saturday, February 27

Despite challenges from the pandemic, IUPAT DC 82 is committed to providing help to those in need this winter.

Beginning at noon on Saturday, February 27, the Painters of District Council 82 will distribute 30-pound USDA Farmers to Families Boxes to anyone in need on a first-come, first-served basis. Volunteers equipped with PPE will be loading food and gallons of milk into people’s cars as they arrive at the drive-thru event. Each box includes two proteins, fruit, vegetables, and dairy items.

“Our members are grateful for the opportunity to volunteer and participate in these partnerships. These organizations are helping our neighbors in these critical times and we get to play a part in that,” said Terry Nelson, Business Manager/ Secretary-Treasurer of District Council 82. “This is our purpose – to ensure safety and sustainability, no matter what. It’s our pleasure to give back in any way we can.” 

The federally-funded program aims to put resources in the hands of farmers who have experienced a reduction in their ability to get their products to market due to COVID-19 food processing shutdowns. 

We are so proud to support its partners in this effort to give back to the community, especially during the pandemic. 
To learn more about the USDA Farmers to Families Boxes, visit

Abridged list: the Trump administration’s attacks on working people

With November 3 right around the corner, our membership should know the facts about President Trump. Does your preferred candidate have your best interests in mind?

Though this list isn’t complete, it provides a snapshot of what we can expect more of in 2020 and beyond if Trump and his administration stay in power.

Remember, you’re not just voting for president – You’re voting for an entire cabinet of individuals who will determine our collective future. Those individuals must have workers’ best interests in mind.

What has the current administration done in the past that’s bad for workers?


  1. Stripped away protections for rank-and-file workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs, prompting a 60% rise in firings in the second half of 2017 alone
  2. Abolished labor-management councils in federal contracts
  3. Rescinded the Department of Labor’s Persuader Rule, which required companies to disclose anti-union activities
  4. Tried to take affordable healthcare away from millions of low-wage working people by repealing the Affordable Care Act
  5. Undermined the Fiduciary Rule, potentially costing working people more than a quarter of our retirement savings
  6. Supported the repeal of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Executive Order that protected construction workers from wage theft


  1. The December 2018 government shutdown, which denied about $9.5 billion of compensation to about 800,000 federal employees
  2. Revoked the Department of Education’s previously negotiated union contract and illegally imposed an anti-union directive, stripping about 3,900 workers of all previously negotiated rights and protections.
  3. Proposed $400 million budget cuts that would slash the Trade Adjustment Assistance program for those who lose their jobs to imports over the next decade
  4. Proposed revoking key child labor protections for teenage workers.


  1. Trump weakened predatory payday lending standards, putting hundreds of thousands of Americans into crippling cycles of debt.
  2. Encouraged wage theft and stifled union organizing by using the NLRB to tell companies to misclassify millions of employees as independent contractors. The Trump NLRB also:
    1. Undermined collective bargaining rights by giving employers more power to make unilateral changes to collectively bargained contracts without consulting with the union, gerrymandering bargaining units to undermine organizing drives, and withdrawing recognition from existing unions
    2. Stripped tens of thousands of student workers and Uber drivers of their right to organize under the NLRA, Section 7A.
    3. Narrowed the definition of “joint employer”— which makes it harder for temporary and contract workers to bargain with the firms that control their wages and working conditions
    4. Gave employers more power to limit workers and union organizers’ 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech on the employer’s property, even when employers let other groups on their property to solicit
  3. Loosened wage protections for tipped workers, encouraging wage theft and forcing restaurant workers into poverty
  4. Proposed a 78% cut to the International Labor Affairs Bureau, the federal agency tasked with promoting a fair playing field for workers worldwide and combating human trafficking
  5. Eugene Scalia, Secretary of Labor, famously led the fight on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce against regulations to protect workers from injuries caused by unsafe workplace design. The rules would have prevented about 600,000 injuries a year.


  1. Enforced weak guidelines that put workers who are among the most at risk of contracting COVID-19 in danger
  2. OSHA hasn’t been able to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard for infectious disease in light of the COVID-19 pandemic
  3. Continued attacks on OSHA. The number of workplace safety inspectors has fallen to the lowest ever in the agency’s existence. As a result, 5,147 workers died on the job in 2017 alone.
  4. IRAPs hurt construction workers by undermining unions. They allow developers to hire low-wage, unsafe workers, increasing the power of large corporations, and undercutting the wages for construction workers. It’s an attack on construction workers’ standard of living and hope for a decent future.
  5. Trump favors large corporations that fund his campaign, even when workers are exploited and exposed to COVID-19 as a result

What does Trump have in store for 2021?

  1. Proposed cutting the Department of Labor’s budget by nearly 10 percent
  2. Eliminating the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which helps small-medium sized manufacturers to compete with giants
  3. Slashing funding for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) by 33 percent. SNAP is an important health program for low-wage workers.
  1. Defunding Social Security
  1. Continuing to profit from foreign labor, instead of practicing “America First” priorities
  2. Defying the constitution by encouraging boycotts to companies that defy his wishes