Mayor Rybak rallies workers' support for stadium

RT Rybak calls touts stadium jobs
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak speaks about the prospects for employment at a new Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis. He and City Council President Barbara Johnson said they were still short of what some legislators say would be a must-have vote in support of using city sales taxes to support a Vikings stadium.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

Minneapolis officials rallied union workers at the Metrodome on Monday, calling for the state to reach a deal that would put them back to work.

Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council President Barbara Johnson praised the jobs a new stadium would provide, calling upon the Minneapolis City Council to approve a plan that may sidestep a city charter amendment capping professional sports subsidies.

Rybak said he hoped the need for jobs would help sway the city council, which in January balked at committing hundreds of millions of dollars in local sales taxes to the project. Council members expressed concern about violating a 15-year-old referendum capping city subsidies for professional sports at $10 million.

Formal city approval is a must-have if Minneapolis wants lawmakers to set aside the 1997 voter measure, said DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook, Minn.

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"The legislature could waive the charter provision, and allow Minneapolis to redirect the tax money. But the city of Minneapolis would have to by a majority vote, seven votes, do that," Bakk said. "There are a lot of us at the legislature very concerned about taking that action, overriding the city's charter only to find out later that the majority of the city council don't support it."

Rybak said the effort is at least a couple votes short of approval so far.

"We're working hard on this stadium. It's no slam dunk," Rybak said. "But it is a place where we've caught momentum. Clearly we have issues of whether we can move forward on this or not. But the momentum is on our side at City Hall."

Union officials touted a preliminary project labor agreement they'd reached with the Vikings. It's a standard union pact that many large Minnesota construction projects include.

The agreement outlined today says the the unions agree to complete the stadium on time and without work stoppages. In exchange, the Vikings will hire only union labor.

Bill McCarthy, president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, also said the unions and Vikings agreed to retain the union concession worker jobs at the Metrodome. The letter of intent also gives unions the opportunity to organize more concession workers at the new stadium.

Union laborer Gary Stordahl of south Minneapolis says construction workers need the work a stadium would provide.

"I've been off since November. I did have work last year, but in 2010 I had practically no work at all," Stordahl said.

Johnson said the Minneapolis stadium plan still includes a provision to help fund renovation of the Target Center.