Prevailing Wage

Prevailing wage is the hourly rate, plus benefits, required by law to be paid for each trade or occupation while performing work on state-funded construction projects.

These projects can be highways, roads, wastewater treatment plants, JOBZ projects, public utilities, schools, parks and recreation improvements, or any other construction project funded in part or whole by state funds.

Minnesota's prevailing wage law (Minnesota Statutes 177.41 through 177.44) requires employees working on state-funded construction projects or other projects covered by law be paid wage rates comparable to wages paid for similar work in the area where the project is located.

Prevailing wage -- definitions of construction types

For purposes of wage rate determinations, the following definitions apply.

Commercial construction

"Commercial construction" means all building construction projects exclusive of residential construction.

Examples include: building construction for schools and universities; prisons, correctional facilities; office buildings; churches; warehouses; stores and shopping centers; restaurants; gas stations; etc.

Site work and parking/paving is considered commercial construction, for the purpose of prevailing wage, if included with the building contract. Parking ramps or parking lots for bus or light rail, in conjunction with terminals, is considered commercial construction.

Highway and heavy construction

"Highway and heavy construction" means all construction projects which are similar in nature to those projects based upon bids as provided under Minnesota Statutes, section 161.32 for the construction or maintenance of highways or other public works and includes roads, highways, streets, airport runways, bridges, power plants, dams, and utilities.

Examples include: waste water treatment plants; communication towers; solar or wind farms; wind towers; transmission towers; radio towers; coal, electric, gas, or other energy plants; athletic stadiums and fields; park shelters, playgrounds, and trails; parking lots and ramps (when not in conjunction with a commercial building contract). Site work for future or unplanned development is considered Highway/Heavy construction.

Residential construction or agricultural construction

"Residential construction or agricultural construction" means all construction, remodeling, or repairing of single or two family homes and structures appurtenant thereto including agricultural or farming buildings appurtenant to private farm residences when utilized to carry on primary farming operations.

For more information

Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry

Prevailing Wage unit
443 Lafayette Road N.
St. Paul, MN 55155

Phone: (651) 284-5091

A total of 31 states and the District of Columbia have prevailing wage laws. Such laws go back as far as 1891. The federal Davis-Bacon Act, on which many state laws are patterned, was signed into law in 1931.

A total of 31 states and the District of Columbia have prevailing wage laws. Such laws go back as far as 1891. The federal Davis-Bacon Act, on which many state laws are patterned, was signed into law in 1931.

Prevailing wage laws are based on the principle that taxpayer money should not be used to undercut the standard of living in a local community.

The Davis-Bacon Act, in fact, was drafted by a Republican Congressman and Republican senator, and signed by a Republican president, specifically for that purpose. It is designed to prevent unscrupulous contractors from winning bids by importing low-wage labor from outside the community.

Minnesota's law dates back only to 1973. The last major evaluation of its effectiveness was conducted in 1998 by the Department of Labor and Industry. That study, during the administration of Republican governor Arne Carlson, concluded: "…Not only is the prevailing wage legislation doing what it was intended to do, but absent such a provision, the effects are harmful to the industry and local economy."

Reprinted from an article by Michael Kuchta

It's Time to Re-Build, Re-Train, and Rejuvenate America, by Sean McGarvey

 As the 2016 presidential campaign kicks into high-gear (the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries will occur in the next few weeks), it is troubling to those of us in the building trades, as it should be to all Americans, that the important issue of re-building and repairing America's infrastructure has not been more prominently discussed.

Even though Secretary Clinton has put forth a realistic, workable and robust infrastructure investment plan, the GOP candidates, as well as the media, have largely ignored this issue. Read more »

Looking to ‘step up our game,’ Ironworkers open new training center in St. Paul

(by Michael Moore, Union Advocate) Calling it an investment critical to the union’s survival, Ironworkers Local 512 Business Manager Charlie Roberts cut the ribbon on a new $3.1 million apprenticeship training center in St. Paul. A large crowd of journey-level, apprentice and retired Ironworkers attended the ceremony in late August, which marked the completion of Local 512’s 18,000-square-foot facility on Pierce Butler Route, near Dale Avenue. Construction work began in January. Read more »

Skilled Pipeline Trades Host Technology Expos Across Northern Minnesota

Pipeline Construction, Safety Events Coming to Cloquet, Bemidji, and Park Rapids.  A coalition of trade organizations representing the workers who build Minnesota's pipelines announced today that they will hold a series of public events in northern Minnesota featuring hands-on demonstrations and displays of pipeline technology and construction techniques. Read more »

Building Trades urge Obama to sign Keystone pipeline bill

Building Trades unions are urging President Barack Obama to sign legislation mandating construction of the entire controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. They said the pipeline would create tens of thousands of construction jobs.

But their appeal fell on deaf ears at the White House. Obama has already promised to veto the measure, because it bypasses the federal process for considering the project. And the 62-36 bipartisan Senate vote for the bill reveals there are enough anti-Keystone senators to uphold his decision.  Read more »

Construct Tomorrow program grows, has big plans for next year

Rich Krohn is a faculty member at North Hennepin Community College and an enthusiastic supporter of “Construct Tomorrow,” a Job fair for the construction trades that was held in Brooklyn Park on November 14. He is also a member of the Pile Drivers union. His first job when he got out of high school was working on the construction of the Minneapolis Convention Center.

“I understand the value of a craft education and the ability to earn while you learn," said Krohn. "I’d like to see these students get that same kind of opportunity.” Read more »

Felony charges filed against electrical contractor for underpaying workers

Two partners in an electrical contracting firm face felony charges for violating Minnesota’s prevailing wage laws by underpaying their workers.  Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Monday he was filing felony charges against Thomas Robert Clifton, Lake Elmo, and Earl Keith Standhafer, Burnsville, partners in C&S Electric. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment and/or a $100,000 fine. Read more »

Building Trades president calls for greater infrastructure investment

See video

The United States has fallen behind other industrialized countries when it comes to investing in public infrastructure, the president of North America’s Building Trades Unions said during a recent appearance in the Twin Cities.

Sean McGarvey leads an alliance of 14 national and international unions that collectively represent more than 3 million skilled craft professionals in the United States and Canada. On June 12, he spoke to a group of union business agents and organizers at the Operating Engineers Local 49 hall in Minneapolis. Read more »

Union Depot rehab provided big return on public investment, study finds

It’s a multimodal transportation hub poised to serve the Twin Cities Metro. It’s an architectural jewel in St. Paul’s booming Lowertown district. And according to the results of a study released today, the renovated Union Depot has been – and continues to be – an engine for job creation and economic growth. Read more »

Building Trades unions combine efforts to pass responsible contractor legislation

When it comes to public construction projects in Minnesota, the law says that the lowest responsible bidder gets the job. What constitutes a “responsible bidder” wasn’t clearly defined in the law, however.

Too often, unscrupulous contractors skirt the law to win bids on taxpayer-funded projects. During the recent legislative session, the unions of the Minnesota Building & Construction Trades spearheaded an effort to rectify this, culminating in passage of a bill establishing criteria that contractors must meet when they submit bids to state or local governments. Read more »

For Building Trades, state’s infrastructure investments mean ‘millions of work hours’

Utilizing the first state budget surplus in seven years, state legislators pushed the value of a package of public infrastructure investments passed during the 2014 Legislative Session to over $1 billion.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed off on the construction bill May 20, green-lighting projects across the state that will create “millions of work hours” for union members in the coming years, according to Harry Melander, president of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council. Read more »