Skilled Construction Trades and Respected Contractors
Building Wisconsin Together ®
Welcome to Construction Business Group's Industry Updates.  This monthly e-newsletter will help us communicate the important initiatives that we have underway and relevant updates on issues that impact Wisconsin's construction industry.  
Message from Executive Director  Robb Kahl

April 28, 2018 was the World Day for Safety and Health at Work. This annual event is an awareness-raising campaign for occupational safety and health and for the magnitude of work-related injuries, diseases and fatalities worldwide. An estimated 6,300 people die every day from occupational accidents or work-related diseases. There is an estimated 4% loss of global Gross Domestic Product from the 317 million work-related accidents and deaths that occur annually. According to the most recent data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics , the construction industry suffered the highest number of work fatalities in the United States.
In acknowledgment of the importance of workplace safety, on April 26, 2018, Construction Business Group and the Wisconsin Building Trades Council co-hosted the Fourth Annual Construction Workers' Memorial. Hundreds of construction trades members, family members, contractors and elected officials marched in Madison from the Monona Terrace to St. Patrick's Church. The processional was led by the Fire Fighters Local 311 Pipes and Drums, and the processional was met at St. Patrick's by the American Legion Post 139 Honor Guard.
The processional and the service that followed honored the Wisconsin construction workers who lost their lives on the job over the last year. CBG extends its deepest condolences to the families who lost a loved one in the construction industry.
Next year's Construction Workers' Memorial will be held on Thursday, April 25, 2019. Please mark your calendar and attend next year's Construction Workers' Memorial.

Building Wisconsin Together ®
Thanks for your support!  April 18th externship a huge success
Thank you to all the contractors and members that participated in the April 18th externship at the training center.  Over 350 students from more than 50 school districts attended the event. 

Whether you shared the information with a family member or a school district, supported an Operator who participated in the event, or served on the employer panel - we appreciate your support!   

"Please extend my thanks to all of the organizers of the tremendous event held yesterday at the Operating Engineers training facility in Coloma.  It was very obvious that it is a first class organization with passionate members sharing information on great career opportunities for our students.  Again, thank you on a job very well done!"
A date for the fall externship will be announced soon!
Assembly Bill 375:  High school seniors now eligible for apprenticeship
In April, the legislature passed Assembly Bill 375 which allows high school seniors to apply for and begin registered apprenticeship.  This is a great way for students to have an accelerated entry into apprenticeship and meet industry needs for workforce in the Spring. 
The Operating Engineers will allow high school seniors to attend the information sessions, in advance of graduation, as long as the following conditions are met:
  • They are at least 18 years of age
  • They provide high school transcripts that validate the student is on track to graduate with his/her class
  • All other requirements are met (drivers license, meet physical requirements and have acceptable Accuplacer or ACT scores)

For more information on the externships or AB375, please contact Laura Cataldo at 608-616-2835 or


Industry News and Updates
From the News Stand
New State Law Creates Stiffer Criminal Penalties for UI Benefit Fraud
Over the past year or so, there has been lobbying in support of legislation that would impose stiffer criminal penalties for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefit fraud. Currently, individuals who are convicted of UI benefit fraud are subject to a $500 maximum fine or 90 days in jail, or both.
2017 Assembly Bill 710 changes the criminal penalty structure based on the amount of money that a person fraudulently receives in UI benefit payments and provides that multiple violations can be charged as a single crime. More specifically, a person convicted of UI benefit fraud would be subject to the following criminal penalties:
  • a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 9 months, or both if the value of any UI benefits obtained by fraud does not exceed $2,500;
  • a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 3.5 years, or both if the value of any UI benefits obtained by fraud is between $2,500 and $5,000;
  • a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 6 years, or both if the value of any UI benefits obtained by fraud is between $5,000 and $10,000; or
  • a fine of up to $25,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 10 years, or both if the value of any UI benefits obtained by fraud exceeds $10,000.
Advocacy on this legislation is guided by the real world experience of Wisconsin's Unemployment Insurance Division and the firm belief that stiffer penalties serve as a powerful deterrent to criminal activity.
In 2015, the Division identified and referred 115 cases of UI benefit fraud to local district attorneys. Unfortunately the Division is finding that the existing criminal consequences for fraud are minimal. The maximum fine is $500, and the most common sentences call for repayment orders, which essentially mirror what can be pursued administratively under current law.

Recently, Governor Walker signed Assembly Bill 710 into law as 2017 Wisconsin Act 147. The State of Wisconsin and local prosecutors now have a new tool to combat UI benefit fraud.
PSC Awards More Broadband Expansion Grants
The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) awarded $7.68 million in Broadband Expansion (BEX) grants to fund 46 projects that will extend high-speed internet access to as many as 1,600 businesses and 18,000 homes. Matching private sector funding for these projects will be approximately $19.5 million.
The Broadband Expansion Grant program provides reimbursement for equipment and construction expenses incurred to extend or improve broadband telecommunications service in underserved areas of the state. 
 Outlined below is a summary of the top ten grants awards.   
  • $600,000 - to build fixed wireless service throughout northern towns of Oconto County.  
  • $492,915 - to build DSL service to 26 service nodes near Monticello in Green County. 
  • $414,234 - to build and equip four towers to provide a fixed wireless service in four towns in southern Green County. 
  • $391,807 - to build fiber-to-premises service near Highway 35 between Cochran and Fountain City in Buffalo County. 
  • $390,011 - to build a 20-mile fiber route in Langlade County along Highway 55 from Hollister to Pickerel. 
  • $351,857 - to build DSL service to 28 service nodes near New Glarus, in Green and Dane Counties. 
  • $314,854 - to build fiber-to-premises service in the Town of Bevent in Marathon County and in the Town of Sharon in Portage County. 
  • 282,500 - to build fiber-to-premises service in the Towns of Howard and Tilden, in Chippewa County. 
  • $250,292 - to extend an existing fiber network on the west side of Solberg Lake in the Town of Worcester in Price County. 
  • $244,200 - to build fiber-to-premises service in the Town of Brigham in Iowa County.

NEW STUDY: Prevailing Wage Laws Close Income Gaps for African Americans in Construction
Laws help grow incomes across the racial spectrum, and help more workers access middle class
La Grange:  Prevailing wage laws reduce income inequality between African-American and white construction workers by as much as 53% and help more blue-collar workers reach the middle class, according to new research by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Project for Middle Class Renewal. 

Read the Full Report, State Prevailing Wage Laws Reduce Racial Income Gaps in Construction: Impacts by Trade, 2013-2015, Here.

Read an Executive Summary of the Report Here.

"While prior research has concluded that there is no relationship between prevailing wage laws and the racial composition of the construction workforce, the data clearly shows that these laws help eliminate income disparities between black and white construction workers," said study co-author and University of Illinois Professor Robert Bruno. "African Americans employed as laborers, plumbers, pipefitters, electricians, and heavy equipment operators see the largest gains."

Utilizing publicly-available data from the American Community Survey, the study examined construction worker earnings by race and trade, comparing the results between states with prevailing wage laws and those without. Overall, the researchers found that prevailing wage laws lift the incomes of African American construction workers by an average of 24%, and close the income gap with white workers from 26% to just 12%. 

A more advanced analysis controlling for other observable factors found that states which currently do not have a prevailing wage law could reduce income inequality for African-American construction workers by at least 7% if they implemented one.   

Based on surveys of local construction employers, prevailing wage laws establish local-market minimum wages for publicly-funded construction projects like roads, bridges, and schools. These projects represent roughly one-third of all output in America's 4th largest industry, which employs roughly 6.5 million workers. 

"A stable minimum wage floor benefits all workers, regardless of race or construction trade," added study co-author Jill Manzo. "By ensuring similarly-skilled workers performing identical jobs with the same equipment are paid the same, prevailing wage promotes the concept of equal pay for equal work."

The national Davis-Bacon Act applies prevailing wage standards to most federally-funded construction projects, but projects funded exclusively by state and local governments are not affected unless a state prevailing wage law is also on the books.  Currently, 27 U.S. states have these laws.

The study also used American Community Survey data to track average take-home incomes for the ten largest skilled construction crafts, and compares those figures against the average annual salary of all U.S. workers ($47,258). In states without prevailing wage laws, not a single average skilled craft salary reaches the nationwide average. With prevailing wage, at least two crafts exceed this threshold (operating engineers and electricians), while one other falls just short (plumbers, pipefitters, and related occupations).

"For the largest skilled construction crafts, prevailing wage laws improve incomes by between $1,800 and $12,000 per year," added study co-author and Illinois Economic Policy Institute Policy Director Frank Manzo IV. "These laws clearly have the effect of reducing poverty and giving more blue-collar workers of all races a chance to join the middle class."     

STRATEGIC LEVERAGE:  Use of State and Local Laws to Enforce Labor Standards in Immigrant-Dense Occupations
Immigrants, who account for 17 percent of the U.S. labor force, are twice as likely as native-born workers to be employed in an industry where violations of core labor standards are widespread. These wage-and-hour and safety-and-health law violations can often be traced back to the changing nature of the relationship between low-wage workers and the companies that employ them.  For example, the practice of misclassifying workers as "independent contractors" rather than employees-and thus removing them from the protection of many workplace laws and enabling companies to sidestep payroll taxes, unemployment insurance contributions, and workers' compensation requirements-is common in low-wage industries from construction to transportation.

It has long been difficult to push back against these practices, which hurt native-born and immigrant workers alike, deprive states of tax revenue, and disadvantage law-abiding employers.  And at a time when labor standards violations are increasingly widespread and the federal government has stepped back from workplace regulation, state and local efforts are a natural fit to fill the vacuum.

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