What’s a Prevailing Wage

Prevailing Wage Creates Sustainable Careers
and Thriving Wisconsin Families

Everyone wants their time, talent, and energy to be recognized with fair and equitable compensation and benefits, allowing them to have a sustainable career while supporting their family. This creates the foundation for strong communities.

WBTC is dedicated to strengthening Wisconsin’s economy by keeping workers gainfully employed while protecting their wages and benefits across the construction trades. We want Wisconsin contractors to succeed so there are more job opportunities for everyone in our diverse communities. More local hiring means greater economic impact and prosperity across our state and across industries for businesses of all sizes.

That is the motivation behind WBTC’s commitment to reinstating prevailing wage laws in Wisconsin. Standing up and creating a voice for people in the trades is vital to the WBTC mission.

What is a Prevailing Wage?

A prevailing wage is the hourly and overtime wages plus benefits paid to workers in a particular trade or occupation established within a region for government projects. It is also referred to as the union wage for public works. Apprenticeships and industry promotion are also affected by prevailing wages.

In Wisconsin, the prevailing wage was determined by the WI Department of Workforce Development before the laws’ repeal in 2017. Implementation of and adherence to prevailing wage law is also part of the responsibilities for each state’s Department of Labor (DOL).

Prevailing wages also apply to federally funded government projects. Historically, the Davis–Bacon Act of 1931 set the precedent for prevailing wages on federal contracts. Individual states that have prevailing wage laws are known as “little Davis-Bacon Acts” with rules and regulations varying by state.

Why Have Prevailing Wage?

In construction, there can be a significant amount of variability in the bidding process. Unfortunately, it’s not generally an apples-to-apples comparison, allowing for the underbidding of projects and an inconsistent playing field. The intent behind prevailing wage is to create a fair, equitable and level playing field for those bidding on government projects, not allowing a contractor to put in a low bid by underrepresenting the pay for their workers. This is a common practice in the construction trades.

The trades can also offer a rewarding and sustainable career path for so many. We are experiencing shortages in workers across the trades. WBTC and its member unions want to infuse new talent in the pipeline by demonstrating how a career in the trades is worth pursuing and financially attractive, offering a career that has growth opportunities.

WBTC and its affiliates believe the establishment and protection of prevailing wages is vital to attracting and keeping talent long-term. It ensures that all diverse workers receive the same, equitable compensation. And it sets the foundation to create a highly skilled workforce built on vigorous apprenticeships and ongoing training programs.

Learn More About the Impact of the Repeal of Prevailing Wage