Possible Revisions to Connecticut’s Prevailing Wage Laws

Anyone involved with public construction projects is familiar with the term “prevailing wage,” which is generally understood to mean the minimum wages established by the government for each labor class that works on a given project. 29 C.F.R. § 1.2(a)(1). Connecticut’s prevailing wage requirements are far less onerous than the federal law, which apply to any project that costs more than $2,000. 40 USCS § 3142. Connecticut’s prevailing wage law only applies to new construction where the total cost of the work is $400,000 or more, and on remodeling or rehabilitation projects where the total cost of the work is $100,000 or more. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-53. Nonetheless, the state is currently considering increasing the project costs for which the prevailing wage law requirements will apply, i.e. the law’s threshold limits; indexing the threshold limits to inflation; and/or exempting certain public projects from the requirements entirely.

 

Given the disparity between the state and federal requirements described above and the proposed bills, it is interesting to consider the goals that the Connecticut state legislature intends to achieve. For all the bills that increase the threshold limits and/or exempt certain projects, the stated goals are to reduce costs for town public works projects;

Changes to the Prevailing Wage Law Considered

According to Conn. Gen. Stat. §31-53, all public works construction contracts require the wages paid on the project to “be at a rate equal to the rate customary or prevailing for the same work in the same trade or occupation in the town in which such public works project is being constructed. Any contractor who is not obligated by agreement to make payment or contribution on behalf of such persons to any such employee welfare fund shall pay to each mechanic, laborer or worker as part of such person’s wages the amount of payment or contribution for such person’s classification on each pay day.”  The reason for the “prevailing wage” requirement is to level the playing field for those bidding on public projects by requiring non-union companies to pay the equivalent of union wages on such projects.  In the last legislative session, Connecticut lawmakers considered an expansion of the prevailing wage law beyond projects owned by the state or its subdivisions.

The considered legislation expands the prevailing wage law so that it would apply to any project which receives financial assistance from the state.  For example, if your project is funded—or even partially funded—by a loan or a grant from the State Department of Economic Development,