Productive, High-Skilled, and Well-Paid

March 1, 2015

Road and Bridge Construction Workers in the Midwest was co-authored by Frank Manzo, Policy Director of the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, and Professor Robert Bruno of the University of Illinois School of Labor and Employment Relations.  It  looks at the economic and construction-related benefits of skilled workers in the Great Lakes region, which the study defined as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Executive Summary

Construction workers who specialize in road and bridge infrastructure projects are productive, high-skilled, and well-paid in America’s “Great Lakes” region- which comprises Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Key findings from this report include:

  • Employment in construction jobs is expected to increase by 21.4 percent over the next decade, the second-fastest growing occupation. The majority of these new employment opportunities will require the completion of a three- to five-year apprenticeship program.
  • In 2013, three out of every five new construction jobs in the Great Lakes region were filled by a candidate with an associate’s or apprenticeship degree.
  •  Road and bridge construction workers each produce an average of $155,100 in economic value for the Great Lakes region, second only to their counterparts in the Far West states ($162,461 per worker). Wisconsin’s street, highway, and bridge construction workers were the most productive in the Great Lakes region, annually contributing an average of $184,592 to the economy.
  •  Construction workers in the Great Lakes region build highways in a cost-effective manner, constructing each lane-mile up to 43 percent cheaper than the national average.
  • The apprenticeship share- the ratio of active apprentices to total workers in construction occupations- is higher in states with a prevailing wage law (7.7 percent) than in states without a prevailing wage law (5.4 percent). Additionally, 10 percentage-point increase in a state’s construction industry unionization rate is associated with a 3.2 percentage-point average increase in its apprenticeship share.

Construction workers across the Great Lakes region are well-compensated and can support a middle-class family. Road and bridge construction workers receive significant training in the Great Lakes states and, in turn, translate their increased human capital into higher levels of productivity for employers. Unfortunately, there are threats across the Midwest to weaken the institutions that are statistically correlated with increased worker efficiency, including prevailing wage laws and trades unions. If the Great Lakes region is to remain one of the nation’s leaders in worker productivity on public construction projects, these institutions must be both defended and strengthened.

(Read More)

[PR Watch addresses forces behind prevailing wage repeal]

ALEC, NFIB Push Prevailing Wage Repeal

Posted by Jody Knauss on March 24, 2015

Lower Wages for Workers, No Savings to Taxpayers

Studies have consistently found that prevailing wage laws do not increase government contracting costs, and repeal of prevailing wage laws does not save taxpayer money, primarily because higher-wage construction workers are much more productive. An exhaustive study using a database of 150,000 construction projects over the period 2003-2010 compared the eight Midwestern states with prevailing wage laws to the four without and found per-square-foot construction costs to be equal or lower in prevailing wage states. Taxpayer savings associated with the absence of a prevailing wage law: zero.

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 *Co-defendant in this case is scheduled for a preliminary hearing tomorrow

Date: March 23, 2015            Case # 13CF3959

SANTA ANA – A construction company foreman was convicted and sentenced Friday for defrauding employees of $330,000 in wages and keeping the money for himself from two public works contract. Antonio Naranjo Jr., 41, Costa Mesa, pleaded guilty Friday, March 20, 2015, to 11 felony counts of taking and receiving a portion of a worker’s wage on public works project and two felony counts of recording a false and forged instrument. He was sentenced to four years and six months in state prison. Naranjo Jr. is currently serving two years and eight months in state prison for a residential burglary conviction in 2012 (Case #12HF3186) and will now serve seven years and four months in state prison.

Walsh: Dialogue needed on public project wages


March 23, 2015

By: Jack Encarnacao


Mayor Martin J. Walsh said raising the wages of union laborers who work on public projects should be part of the national dialogue on income inequality during a panel discussion with the mayors of New York, Baltimore and Seattle.

Walsh praised the Legislature for boosting the state minimum wage to $11 by 2017 before mentioning the “prevailing wage law,” which pays Boston tradesman in the range of $30 to $50 an hour to work on public projects.

“I think we have to look at the prevailing wage law as well to make sure that we give people the opportunity to … have a living wage,” Walsh said during the “Municipal Strategies for Financial Empowerment” public forum at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

(Read More)

Report: Wage theft on the rise in Bay area

Sarah Hagen, WTSP6:43 p.m. EDT

March 20, 2015



St. Petersburg, Florida — Could you be a victim of wage theft? It’s when an employer doesn’t pay in full, fails to pay minimum wage, ignores overtime pay, makes you work through meal breaks or pays late.

“Pushing for a wage theft ordinance in St. Pete will make bad businesses think twice before cheating employees,” said councilwoman Darden Rice. She adds, it’s the many personal stories like Scott Snurpus’ that have motivated her for change

“Once I realized I was being robbed I was mad,” says Snurpus who was working as an electrician. He says his temp agency was wrongly taking money from his paycheck to pay for equipment. Since then the US Labor Board got involved and he’s gotten his money back.

Rice says certain industries are more likely to target victims “Low-wage industries: fast food workers, nursing homes, construction workers,” she says.

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Sunshine Week: Beat reporter shines light on schools’ use of federal contracts

By Robert Brauchle

March 16, 2015


Reporter Ryan Murphy began 2014 with a tip that Isle of Wight County Schools may have skirted federal regulations in the construction of the new Georgie D. Tyler Middle School.

Using the state Freedom of Information Act to access copies of contracts, emails and bid documents, the Daily Press Isle of Wight County beat reporter found that the school division had omitted wage standards from the construction contract that are required under the federal Davis-Bacon Act. The effect was to lower the cost of construction by underpaying local workers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“I spent a couple of months digging into the documents and digging into legislation to figure out exactly what had happened,” Murphy said.

Murphy worked with school administrators to get the documents he needed.

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Texas Urged to Crack Down on Employers That Misclassify Workers

By Julian Aguilar

March 15, 2015


Workers’ rights groups in Texas are revamping their efforts to increase protections for low-income laborers by urging lawmakers to crack down on employers that intentionally misclassify their employees.

Misclassifying workers as independent contractors – rather than employees – allows employers to avoid paying payroll taxes, overtime and workers’ compensation. The practice also allows employers to skirt federal law that requires new hires to provide proof that they can work in the country legally.

About 35,000 Texas workers were misclassified between 2010 and 2012, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. That includes 4,300 in the construction industry and 4,100 in the health care and social assistance industries. Those workers’ employers should have paid about $2.4 million to the state’s unemployment insurance fund, according to a report by the Legislative Budget Board.

(Read More)

Hein signs construction apprenticeship law

Saturday, March 14, 2015



KINGSTON – Ulster County Executive Michael Hein on Friday signed into law a new policy that requires contractors entering into contracts with the County of Ulster to have apprenticeship agreements for certain bridge contracts of over $500,000.

Contractors must have apprenticeship agreements appropriate to the type and scope of work to be performed and must be registered with and approved by the state Labor Department.

Hein said the law will “help ensure we have a well-trained generation of high skilled local tradesmen to tackle the monumental task of rebuilding infrastructure through the Hudson Valley.”

(Read More)

NC board takes action against construction firm

Wake GOP legislator wants to change law to protect workers from job misclassification


For businesses that want to install plumbing or heaters in North Carolina, here’s a message from state regulators: Follow the law and treat workers as employees or don’t do business here.

If some legislators have their way, that message will be locked into law during this session of the General Assembly for those companies and other employers. Companies that improperly treat employees as contractors could risk their professional licenses and face steep fines. Those that do would be barred from doing business with the state.

“We’ve got to protect the worker and fair competition in this state,” said Rep. Gary Pendleton, a Wake County Republican who is planning to introduce a bill Monday that would make employee misclassification a violation of the law.

Labor Enforcement Task Force (LETF)

Learn more about LETF in California and the Underground Economy


The Labor Enforcement Task Force, under the direction of the Department of Industrial Relations, is a coalition of California State government enforcement agencies that work together and in partnership with local agencies to combat the underground economy. In this joint effort, information and resources are shared to ensure employees are paid properly and have safe work conditions and honest, law-abiding businesses have the opportunity for healthy competition.