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Industry groups support wage law changes

By Paul Snyder

Three contractor groups are aligning themselves with the Department of Workforce Development in support of changes to the state’s prevailing wage law.

Those groups — the Construction Business Group, the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association and the Wisconsin Underground Contractors Association — have filed a motion to support the law changes under review by Dane County Circuit Court Judge John Markson. The brief would dispute the Associated Builders & Contractors of Wisconsin Inc.’s contention the law changes are unfair to employers.

“All employers are not of the mind-set of some of those signed onto this case or other ABC members who think the sky’s going to fall when this takes effect,” said Robb Kahl, executive director of Construction Business Group, a joint labor-management organization. “This is a law that passed with the support of the industry.”

The new law requires contractors file monthly reports on prevailing-wage payments for public works projects valued at $25,000 or more. Nonunion contractors must submit a 50-field spreadsheet every month. Union contractors must submit their collective-bargaining agreements and a six-field spreadsheet.

ABC last month filed a request for an injunction to permanently suspend the wage reporting law because, the association argues, the 50 fields exceed state budget requirements. Markson’s review of the case is expected to conclude April 19.

WTBA Executive Director Pat Goss was unavailable for comment.

Richard Wanta, WUCA’s executive director, said his only issue with the law change was the DWD’s initial requirement that union contractors also submit 50-field spreadsheets. DWD on Feb. 4 distinguished between union and nonunion requirements. The first reports were due Feb. 7.

WUCA lobbyist Brian Mitchell said he was “disappointed” by how long it took DWD to inform contractors of the exact requirements, but he said it’s too early to criticize the changes.

“I think people are going to have to sit back and see,” he said. “We don’t know yet whether it’s going to be workable.”

The request to support the law changes is not a shock, said Doug Witte, an attorney in the Madison office of Melli Law SC representing ABC.

“I don’t think what those groups have to say is going to have a major impact on the legal issues,” he said. “The issue at play here is still that the spreadsheet goes beyond what was specified in the statute.”

But, Witte said, the inclusion of the other contractor groups could postpone the April 19 decision.

“They said they want to have their brief in by March 12,” Witte said. “My response to the state’s brief is due March 19. I’m gathering they’re going to weigh in on the side of DWD, and I’d like at least an additional week to get my head around those arguments and get my brief in.”

Representatives from Markson’s office did not return calls before deadline to comment on the timing of the judge’s review.

Though he said he has not reviewed the spreadsheet, Kahl said if DWD needs 50 fields to ensure contractors are in compliance with the law, the department has the right to ask.

“We’re there to talk about the rationale for the change in policy,” Kahl said. “There are a lot of employers represented by these groups that believe in prevailing wage and want to see enforcement carried out.”


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