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Contractors deal with renewed prevailing wage law

By Paul Snyder

Nonunion contractors either are scrambling to prepare monthly and, in some cases, overdue state prevailing wage reports or congratulating themselves for following the correct hunch.

Steven Janke, president of Athens-based Janke General Contractors Inc., said he continued to file prevailing wage reports with the state for the past five months even though a lawsuit filed by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin Inc. meant he was not required to do so.

We figured it was easier to do it as we went along than wait to see if the state would uphold the law,” he said. “We have one person that does payroll, and we didn’t need staff spending the better part of days or weeks trying to get it all together.”

ABC in January requested an injunction against the state’s new prevailing wage law, and Dane County Circuit Court Judge John Markson suspended reporting until he reached a decision on whether the reporting requirement went beyond what lawmakers called for in the 2009-11 state budget. Markson ruled Thursday the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s reporting spreadsheet is in line with the budget’s directive.

He dismissed ABC’s case, putting the reporting requirement back in effect.

Gregory Reesman Jr., president of Burlington-based Reesman’s Excavating & Grading Inc., now has five months’ worth of reports to hand in. He said his company has worked on six prevailing wage projects since January.

“We weren’t going to file,” Reesman said, “until we knew what information they were going to need for us to comply.”

State law now requires contractors prove they are paying prevailing wages to employees working on state and local public works projects valued at $25,000 or more. Under previous law, the proof was not required unless the project was valued at $234,000 or more.

In order to prove they are paying prevailing wages, union contractors must submit collective-bargaining agreements to the state, along with a seven-field reporting spreadsheet. Nonunion contractors must submit a 34-field spreadsheet, which DWD in March whittled from 50 fields.

According to an interim order filed before Thursday’s ruling, contractors will have 45 days to comply with reporting requirements, including reports not filed since January.

Reesman said his company has kept records of payments on prevailing wage projects since January, so it will not be overly burdensome for the company to file. He said contractors better understand the law changes now than when DWD first introduced its reporting spreadsheet in January.

DWD spokesman John Dipko said department officials are not discussing penalties for contractors.

“At this point, the focus remains on education,” he said. “We’re still communicating with contractors to make sure they’re complying with the law.”

Janke said contractors might not like the new law, but they will have to live with it.

“It’s the way we do business in Wisconsin now,” he said.

But Stan Johnson, president of Manitowoc-based A.C.E. Building Service, said ABC should continue the fight.

“The law is just blatantly unfair,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to provide all that information.”

Johnson said his company has not performed prevailing wage work since January and mostly works in the private sector. But he said the lack of recent private sector work is prompting the company to consider more public projects.

The debate can continue, Reesman said, but contractors might have to settle for reporting.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to be fully satisfied with it,” he said. “But at this point, that’s what it is, and we’ll comply with it.”


  1. Time for more of you contractors to fight this and talk to your uninformed employees/friends. Ask them to vote properly (next time) for politicians that have the public’s interest at heart, and not the interests of chicago thug style politicians that we see in Wisconsin and nationally. Stop being cowards at election time and take a stand as company owners. Let employees know how Liberal union votes have negative consequences, all the TIME. Unions don’t help the “working man”. (How’s that working Detroit?) Put up posters in lunch rooms tellling the lazy uninformed how bad politicians affect their jobs. If you don’t get involved and start getting a back bone, your existence will be at risk.

  2. Wow Max, you seem pretty angry. I think we can assume it has nothing to do with the construction industry as you refer to “you contractors”. Since when is it wrong when a legislator takes a workering taxpayers wages out of the competitive bidding process on a project funded by the taxpayers? Rhetorical question Max, I know you answer just from reading your line referring to workers as “lazy uninformed”. I’d like to see if you could make it for one hot august day on one of my crews.

  3. This is great! More red tape during a time when the #1 priority is to keep the door open. Liberal politicos have done it again! The liberal judge dismissed the case saying DWD is in line with the budget directives? So which politicos created teh budget? The liberals. And they wonder why Wisconsin’s new motto is BACKWARD!.
    Why do you need all the information? There is NO reason other than to build a database against OPEN and NON-UNION, and MERIT Shops. The union doesnot have to report this information. All they need to do is say they complied with their contract.
    Voting the LIBERALS out is not going to be easy. People want the candy but don’t want the responsibility! Nor do they want to be the ones to ante up for the candy.

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