Menards Employees Commuting To North Dakota Via Airplane


The labor shortage in North Dakota has become so acute that the Menards here in my hometown of Minot is paying to commute 50 employees from Wisconsin to work in their store.

The employees would be flown from Wisconsin to North Dakota once a week for either four or five day work weeks, totaling 50 to 60 hour work weeks (including travel time, I’m assuming).

The $13/hour these workers would be receiving is about on par for what retail workers are making in Minot right now, meaning Menards is resorting to the additional expense of flying these workers in and out of the city every week as opposed to going above that pay threshold to hire someone locally. Probably a smart move as they don’t want to raise the level of their wage costs too high.

As substantial as the Bakken oil boom is, the labor shortage won’t be around forever, and when an equilibrium is reached this pressure on wages will drop.

Still, shocking to see a company going to the expense of flying relatively low-skill workers across the country to fill gaps in North Dakota. Not only is this market that important for Menards (their store one of the busiest in town), but the labor market really is that tight.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • RCND

    “flying relatively low-skill workers across the country”

    That’s pretty harsh Rob. It takes a lot of skill to be able to hide effectively from a store full of customers, and when found, to have enough savvy to pull off the old “I don’t know, that’s not my department” answer. They got skills…

    • Rob

      Well, I was talking about useful skills.


      My point was, it’s not like they’re flying in engineers or surgeons or something.

      • RCND

        True. I have just come to the conclusion that I need to be fully prepared to go on an unguided hunting expedition whenever I shop there. Maybe that is by design because I usually impulse a few items into the cart I was not planning on but all of a sudden I “need” as I wander in search of what is on my list

        In all honesty there are a few employees who work hard and provide excellent customer service. The problem is there are not enough of them, nor does customer service ever appear to be a company value… except when competition is moving in next to them

        • Rob

          Just in terms of preferences, I try to avoid gigantic stores like Menards. I find shopping in them inconvenient, both because the logistics of staffing such a place means a lot of people who aren’t very helpful and because I don’t want to have to walk for miles in the store to find a few items.

          If you’re buying in bulk they’re the place to go, but when I can I try to go to smaller stores.

  • DWHoover

    I would be curious to see how this move affects prices at Menard’s. Granted, I don’t go there a lot. I can’t deal with the mass incompetence of the staff. But I have never really compared prices between hardware stores in Minot or even other Menard’s stores.

    Not only is there an expense in labor, but the staff also stays in hotel rooms. I don’t know if they are given a per diem for food or not. Menard’s did a similar thing earlier this year.

    Menard’s is not the only company bringing in out of town employees. Several fast food restaurants in town have also been busing in employees from Bismarck and other areas.

    Minot has also had to fill in its workforce with foreign students. College students from other countries will come to the states during their summer and work various jobs. My employer had several working for us, and they were a godsend.

    • Rob

      Well Menards is a giant chain, and additional labor costs associated with these employees can no doubt be absorbed by the organization without having much impact on price.

  • Mike Quinn

    This is simple minded at best. Why not give local people the money the airline tickets cost as wages. Airline tickets for 50 people would be a nice wage increase for local people. Assuming it cost $500 to fly each person, that would mean Menards could afford to pay each person $500 more locally. Of course it must also cost something to feed and house these people. Why not simply raise local wages? This is greed gone wild.

    • RCND

      I am sure they looked at that and for whatever reason found it not preferable. It may be that there simply is not a supply of people locally willing to work retail

    • Rob

      Because, as I explained in the post, Menards doesn’t want to move the needle on their labor costs that high because of a wage bubble created by a labor shortage.

      These jobs aren’t worth much more than $13/hour. It’s cheaper for Menards, in the long run, to pay to fly employees in rather than inflate their wages going forward.

      • two_amber_lamps

        Hey Rob, seeing your lil buddy Mike Quinn/Albert Snicklefritz or whatever else he feels like calling himself today has difficulty with the adult conversation (leftist that he is), maybe you could open up an alternate site for alternate (reality) views such as his? It could be something like Thanksgiving… the big table for the big people and the little card table in the corner for the little fellers…. with an extra bowl of green jello to signify the greed they ascribe to everyone but their own legislatively mandated redistributing selves.

    • two_amber_lamps

      Lol… “greed gone wild?” Bolshevik dork. If Menards deems it fit to ship employees in from out of state to avoid inflating the labor wage then that’s their prerogative. Being a collectivist twit, you probably cannot understand this.

  • Demosthenes

    It sounds like the cost is to “ship” the employees is rather minimal as they are coming aboard “company aircraft”.

    • two_amber_lamps

      Not only that… they’re stimulating the aviation industry. It’s a win/win all the way around!

  • Demosthenes

    Also those that are weekend shifts get an add’l $2.50/hr. I find it funny though they call overtime pay an incentive…….as if they had a choice, company HR spin.

  • Captornado

    I would hope the folks at Menards are ‘keeping it local’ and chartering the NDSU plane to fly these workers in.