A Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry proposed rule that would change wage levels required to be paid to construction apprentices in state-registered programs was deemed “unreasonable” and found to violate “substantive principles of law,” according to a April 21 report by Minnesota Administrative Law Judge Richard C. Luis (click below to access report).

The state DOL proposed the rule late last year, and it was championed by the Associated Building Contractors and a minority of construction contractors. More than 5,000 letters were written in opposition to the proposed rule. A hearing was held in February, presided over by Judge Luis.

State-registered apprenticeship programs require that registered apprentices be paid minimum wage rates. Apprentice wage rates are determined by multiplying the journeyman rate by various percentages. Currently, the journeyman wage rate in Minnesota is determined by an employer's collective bargaining agreement or, in the absence of an agreement, the prevailing wage rate. Prevailing wage rates are determined for each occupation in each county through a survey of state construction employers - the most commonly occurring wage rate based on the survey data.

The proposed rule would change the calculation of the journeyman wage in the absence of a collective bargaining agreement; employers who do not have such an agreement would set the journeyman wage rate at the statistical median (the 50th percentile wage rate) based on a survey of employers.

Opponents of the proposal - construction employer associations, the Minnesota Mechanical Contractors Association and the Minnesota Building Trades - said it would effectively lower the apprentice wage requirements for state-registered apprenticeship programs.

Language from the existing rule has been introduced in a state Senate bill, while language from the proposed rule has been introduced in a state House bill. It remains unclear how the state legislature will proceed on this issue.