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DWD needs to speak up

By Chris Thompson

When cornered, leaders of government agencies often cover their eyes, shut their mouths and fire off vaguely worded press releases.

It is, without fail, the opposite of what they should do.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development made a mistake with its prevailing-wage reporting requirements. The depth and severity of that mistake is a matter of interpretation.

Some say the reporting changes are pro-union. Others argue DWD’s 50-some field spreadsheet is asking too much of contractors, and the tight deadline gives the contractors too little time to get the work done.

But the heart of the mistake, the true gaffe, is DWD’s failure to speak to those it governs.

People in the construction industry are genuinely surprised and confused by these reporting rules. They believe DWD had months to prepare the industry for this change and chose to stay quiet.

DWD’s response to such claims: silence.

The Associated Builders & Contractors of Wisconsin Inc. sought an injunction to delay enforcement of the rules and then announced enforcement would be suspended until a judge ruled on the injunction request.

DWD responded with a press release disputing ABC’s claim, then essentially agreed and then made it clear the two people most capable of explaining the mess weren’t talking.

And stuck in the middle are the contractors, trying to decide if they really need to spend thousands of dollars to upgrade software and hire payroll workers, and trying to interpret the backlash from a legal proceeding over a rule that DWD chooses not to discuss.

It’s difficult to look an angry industry in the eye and explain yourself. It’s even more difficult when you close your eyes to the problem.

Chris Thompson is the editor of The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at chris.thompson@dailyreporter.com

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