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Harry Melander, at podium, spoke at a May 3, 2012 jobs rally at the State Capitol.

Carpenter Harry Melander retires as MN Building Trades president

Adapted from the Minneapolis Labor Review, June 21, 2021

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

SAINT PAUL — President of the Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council since 2009, Harry Melander retired effective June 4.

“I think the Building Trades are in a good position moving forward,” Melander told the Labor Review. “They certainly have gained a measure of respect in the legislative process.”

Melander said challenges will continue, however, to preserve the eight-hour work day, protect prevailing wage, and oppose so-called ‘Right to Work’ legislation.

“I think the opportunity for the Building Trades is our membership is starting to reflect how our community looks,” Melander added. “Are we there yet? No. We’re working towards it.”

Melander noted that his grandfather was an immigrant from Sweden while his mother was an immigrant from Ireland. Now, he said, “there are new immigrants here and they’re going to support the labor community.”

Melander joined what was then Carpenters Local 87 in 1973, following his father and grandfather into the local.

Over the years, he rose in union leadership, becoming Local 87 president, president of the Minnesota Statewide Council of Carpenters, and executive secretary of the Saint Paul Building and Construction Trades Council, to name just a few highlights.

“You can’t do these jobs without a lot of help,” Melander said. “I’ve had a lot of help from a lot of good people.”

“I’ve had great mentors,” Melander said. He named Dick Anfang, his predecessor as president of the State Building Trades, as well as former Minnesota AFL-CIO presidents Dave Roe, Danny Gustafson, and Ray Waldron.

“The AFL-CIO is much different than when I first attended a convention back in 1976,” Melander said. “I think the labor movement is in a unique position now.”

Commenting on politics, Melander said, “we have a two-party form of government… The polarization in both parties is not good. The Building Trades always say, it doesn’t make any difference your affiliation, if you support us we’ll support you.”

He added, “the DFL today is much different than when Hubert Humphrey and Dave Roe were guiding the ship” but he also lamented the changes in the Republican Party.

Melander has served on the board of a number of organizations in the community — Minnesota Housing Partnership, Twin Cities Housing Development Corporation, Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, to name a few — and said he will continue his community involvement. “I’m going to continue to try to have a presence,” he said.

Looking to retirement, Melander listed home projects ahead. “My passion is being a carpenter,” he said.

Harry Melander
LIUNA Minnesota photo

Harry Melander was honored at the Minnesota Building Trades Convention July 22 at Madden’s resort, receiving a plaque from Governor Tim Walz declaring the day “Harry Melander Day.”


See also:
New leadership takes charge at Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council
(Minneapolis Labor Review, June 26, 2021)

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