Prevailing Wage

The term prevailing wage rate or “white sheet” means the basic hourly rate of pay, plus the hourly contribution for employee benefits, paid directly or indirectly for an occupation or trade.  If no benefits are provided, the hourly base rate and the hourly benefit amount are required to be paid directly to the employee.

State and federal prevailing wage laws require contractors engaged in public construction to pay their workers a wage comparable to those of construction workers performing similar private work in the same geographic area.  On July 1, 2011, Wisconsin’s state prevailing wage laws underwent major revisions.  The following chart summarizes the significant changes in the law.

SUMMARY OF MAJOR PREVAILING WAGE LAW CHANGES EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2011
For further updates on this topic, refer to the prevailing wage website at:
http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/er/prevailing_wage_rate
The recently approved State budget bill (2011 Wisconsin Act 32) includes changes to prevailing wage laws (§§66.0903, 66.0904, 103.49 & 103.50, Wis. Stats.) effective JULY 1, 2011.  Significant changes are described below.
Topic Who’s affected? Brief description of requirement under §66.0903 or §103.49
Threshold All public entities & Contractors The $25,000 threshold for public works projects has been changed to single-trade and multiple-trade project thresholds as noted below.  The new thresholds apply to prevailing wage projects whose prime contract is awarded after June 30, 2011.
Non-applicability:
Threshold for Single-Trade Projects
All public entities & Contractors Any single-trade project of public works with an estimated cost of completion of less than $48,000 does not require a prevailing wage rate determination.
“Single-trade project of public works” means a project of public works in which a single trade accounts for 85 percent or more of the total labor cost of the project.
Non-applicability:
Threshold for Multiple-Trade Projects
All public entities except cities, towns & villages as noted below & Contractors Any multiple-trade project of public works with an estimated cost of completion of less than $100,000 does not require a prevailing wage rate determination.
“Multiple-trade project of public works” means a project of public works in which no single trade accounts for 85 percent or more of the total labor cost of the project.
Non-applicability:
Threshold for Multiple-Trade Projects
Cities or villages with a population of less than 2500 & Towns & Contractors A multiple-trade project of public works erected, constructed, repaired, remodeled, or demolished by a private contractors for a city or village with a population less than 2500, or a town with an estimated cost of completion of less than $234,000 does not require a prevailing wage rate determination.
“Multiple-trade project of public works” means a project of public works in which no single trade accounts for 85 percent or more of the total labor cost of the project.
Non-applicability:
Minor service & maintenance work
Towns & Contractors The following TOWN projects only do not require a prevailing wage rate determination:
*A project not funded under
§86.31, Stats. (TRIP projects)
that is limited to minor crack
filling, chip or slurry sealing or
other minor pavement
patching, not including
overlays.
*The depositing of gravel on an
existing gravel road applied
solely to maintain the road;
*Road shoulder maintenance;
*Cleaning drainage or sewer
ditches or structures;
*Any other limited, minor work
on public facilities or
equipment that is routinely
performed to prevent
breakdown or deterioration.
Non-applicability:
Work for which a public entity does not compensate any contractor
All public entities Prevailing wage laws §§66.0903 & 103.49, Stats., do not apply to work performed on a project of public works for which the local governmental unit or the state or the state agency contracting for the project is not required to compensate any contractor, subcontractor, contractor’s or subcontractor’s agent, or individual for performing the work.
Non-applicability:
Residential
All public entities A prevailing wage rate determination is not required for the erection, construction, repair, remodeling, or demolition of a residential property containing 2 dwelling units or less.
Non-applicability:
Residential subdivision infrastructure
All public entities A prevailing wage rate determination is not required for a road, street, bridge, sanitary sewer, or water main project that is a part of a development in which at least 90 percent of the lots contain or will contain 2 dwelling units or less, as determined by the local governmental unit at the time of approval of the development, and that, on completion, is acquired by, or dedicated to, a local governmental unit (including under §236.13(2), Stats.), or the state, for ownership or maintenance by the local governmental unit or the state.
Non-applicability:
Certain nursing homes
All public entities Prevailing wage law §66.0903, Stats., does not apply to a project of public works involving the erection, construction, repair, remodeling, or demolition of a nursing home in a county having a population of less than 50,000 when the project commences no later than July 1, 2012.
Electronic certified payroll record Contractors The requirement that every contractor on a prevailing wage project submit to DWD monthly a certified record of employees who worked on the project and that DWD post these certified records on its internet website is discontinued effective July 1, 2011.  However, this requirement continues to apply to contractors who worked on prevailing wage projects during the period January 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011.
Payroll record inspection request by any person Contractors & Complainants Any person may request DWD to inspect the payroll records of any contractor working on a prevailing wage project.  On receipt of such a request, the contractor must submit to DWD a certified record of its payroll records, other than personally identifiable information relating to an employee of the contractor, for no longer than a 4-week period.  DWD may request records from a contractor under this provision no more than once per calendar quarter for each project of public works on which the contractor is performing work.  The department may not charge a requester a fee for obtaining that information.  DWD must make these certified records available for public inspection.
Complaints Complainants There are no longer investigation fees.
Statewide uniformity Local governmental units A local governmental unit may not enact & administer a prevailing wage ordinance/
provision for public works or publicly funded private construction projects.  Any extant laws to that effect are void.
Covered employees Truck drivers & Other workers & Contractors A laborer, worker, mechanic, or truck driver who is employed to process, manufacture, pick up, or deliver materials or products from a commercial establishment that has a fixed place of business from which the establishment supplies processed or manufactured materials or products or from a facility that is not dedicated exclusively, or nearly so, to a project of public works is NOT entitled to receive the prevailing wage rate UNLESS any of the following applies:
1) the laborer, worker,
mechanic, or truck driver is
employed to go to the source
of mineral aggregate such as
sand, gravel, or stone and
deliver that mineral aggregate
to the site of a project of public
works by depositing the
material directly in final place,
from the transporting vehicle or
through spreaders from the
transporting vehicle.
2) the laborer, worker,
mechanic, or truck driver is
employed to go to the site of a
project of public works, pick up
excavated material or spoil
from the site of the project, and
transport that excavated
material or spoil away from the
site of the project.
Annual Prevailing Wage Survey All public entities When establishing yearly prevailing wage rates, DWD may not use data from any construction work that is performed by a local governmental unit or a state agency.
Prevailing Wage Rates DOT & Contractors & Employees For state highway prevailing wage rates, DWD is required to include wage rates for work performed on Sundays, holidays and shift differentials based on the time of day or night when work is performed.
The 2009-2011 State budget bill (2009 Wisconsin Act 28) created a new prevailing wage law (§66.0904, Wis. Stats.) for PUBLICLY FUNDED PRIVATE CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS effective January 1, 2010.  The current 2011-2013 State budget bill (2011 Wisconsin Act 32) REPEALS this law.  So the publicly funded private construction projects law only applies to projects that awarded the prime contract during the period January 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011.

The public agency contracting the public works project has the responsibility to obtain the required wage rates and apply them to the public contract during the bidding process.  Construction projects with federal funding may also require federal prevailing wage rates (also known as Davis-Bacon) to be paid to employees on federally funded or assisted contracts in excess of $2,000.

How Prevailing Wage Laws Benefit Everyone


  • The laws require a wage rate that is normally paid for similar work in a geographical area.

  • Employers are required to compete based on good management, skill and efficiency, not on the wage rates of workers.

  • The laws protect community standards.

  • In providing quality employees, prevailing wage laws promote the development of training.

  • A competitive wage provides a stable and highly productive workforce.

  • Health and Pension benefits are encouraged for families and employee needs.

  • Employees contribute economic support to their respective communities.

  • Employee productivity, skills and quality of work are improved.

  • Accident reduction and safety improvements result through better trained and experienced employees.

  • Prevailing wage laws DO NOT increase the cost of public construction.

  • The focus is on competition and productivity, not wages.

  • Prevailing Wage laws provide standards and economic stability that benefit the contracting agency, the employer and the employee.  This is especially important to the public who invests in these projects with their own tax dollars.