Bobby Kasper: Moving our hall, bringing along the spirit of 411 Main

(Union Advocate) Join the Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation and the Saint Paul Building & Construction Trades Council as they break ground on a new home!  
A house is more than its walls and windows, more than the foundation and support beams that hold it together. Memories make a house a home. The friends and family members who gathered there – and the accomplishments that took place under its roof – are as much a part of any house as its square footage or architecture.

The same is true of St. Paul’s “House of Labor,” the Labor and Professional Centre, which is better known to union members as “411 Main.” It may not have been much to look at, but 411 Main has been a landmark on the labor landscape in Minnesota for nearly 40 years.

That era is about to come to a bittersweet end. The Labor Centre’s ownership group, which includes the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, has accepted Catholic Charities’ offer to buy the property and expand its St. Paul campus, currently across the street from 411 Main.

  • What: Labor Center Groundbreaking Ceremony
  • When: 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 8
  • Where: 385 West 7th Street, Saint Paul
  • For more information on the event, call 651-222-3787.

The sale is a win-win scenario for everyone involved. It means Catholic Charities will have a new, state-of-the-art facility to serve the area’s most vulnerable population. And it provides the St. Paul RLF and our affiliate unions with an opportunity to build a new hub of operations for a new generation of union members. The architecture will be different, and so will the challenges they have to face. But 411 Main came to represent certain values that we’ve got to pack up and bring with us to our new home:

  • Solidarity first. The union hall at 411 Main was the site of countless debates – many spirited, some heated. But with few exceptions, we haven’t let our minor differences prevent us from working together to advance the common interests we share as union workers.
  • Union pride. When we march in the Winter Carnival Parade or through the State Fairgrounds on Labor Day, we wear our union membership on our sleeve. And why shouldn’t we? Hard work is what separates the U.S. from the rest of the world, and the labor movement is about making sure that hard work pays off.
  • Win. Whether it was a Saturday door knock or a Midnight Madness rally, 411 Main was a base of campaign activity for labor-endorsed candidates in the East Metro. Phone banks, worksite flyers, getting out the vote – that’s what wins elections. And no one does it better than we do.
  • Have fun. What good is a union quality of life if you don’t enjoy it? While the Labor Centre hosted its share of meetings and phone banks, it’s also seen barbecues, weddings, concerts and potlucks. We’ve all met some great people at 411 Main. Those relationships won’t change as we move into a new building, and, hopefully, neither will the culture of fun and camaraderie we’ve created.

– Bobby Kasper is president of the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, with more than 150 affiliate unions representing more than 50,000 union members in the East Metro. Click here for meeting locations, contact information and more about the RLF’s move.