Southdale Shoppers Warned About Construction Safety, Asbestos Removal

Edina, Minnesota - September 17, 2017 – A coalition of labor groups led by the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council announced today plans to stage a protest at Edina’s Southdale Center to educate the public about the hazards that shoppers can face during mall renovations if contractors potentially fail to follow proper safety procedures.

Beginning at 6 a.m. on Monday, September 18, skilled construction workers wearing asbestos protection gear and carrying “Shop At Your Own Risk” banners will take up posts at the main mall entrances. The unions say that they are particularly concerned by mall owner Simon Properties’ selection of an out-of-state contractor whose sister company has been cited for mishandling asbestos to remediate an old J.C.Penney location that will soon host the Twin Cities’ most luxurious Life Time Fitness branch.

Workers employed by National Environmental Services Corporation, based in Bloomington, Indiana, are onsite under an asbestos removal permit that extends into the Christmas shopping season.

“We investigated National Environmental Services Corporation and we didn’t like what we found,” according to Kevin Pranis, Marketing Manager for LIUNA Minnesota, which represents skilled asbestos remediation workers.

“This is a company that’s never completed an asbestos remediation job in Minnesota, and sister company National Salvage was cited by the Ohio EPA for improperly discharging asbestos emissions on an abatement project in Kenton. If something like that happened at Southdale, it could endanger mall employees and shoppers as well as construction workers.”

The public information banners planned for September 18 will feature laborers in asbestos removal equipment complete with protective suits and respirators.

The action represents a revival of the unions’ “Shop at Your Own Risk” campaign, which was launched in 2014 when representatives uncovered a series of safety lapses during the renovation of Ridgedale Center in Minnetonka (see coverage from the Star Tribune and City Pages).

“Our members documented unlocked electrical boxes, fall hazards, improper disposal of hazardous materials, and unsecured demolition sites where shoppers or their kids could have been exposed at Ridgedale Center,” says Minneapolis Building Trades President Dan McConnell. “Mall management didn’t move fast enough to fix the problem so we took to the streets until we saw safety practices improve.”

Pranis said he finds it ironic that Simon Properties hired a contractor like National Environmental Services Corporation for a location that will ultimately house a Life Time Fitness.

“If I were trying to build the Twin Cities’ premier fitness location, I wouldn’t want Simon Properties to take any chances when it comes to asbestos,” said Pranis. “You don’t want your customers to wonder what they might be breathing.”

Shop at Your Own Risk Southdale Center Event at a Glance

• What: Union members deliver safety message to shoppers and mall employees.

• When: Monday, September 18 beginning at 6 a.m. near all mall entrances

• Where: Southdale Center, 10 Southdale Center, Edina, MN

• Who: The Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council