UT’s Construction Center Wins $9.3 Million Contract from U.S. Labor Department

KNOXVILLE — The Construction Industry Research and Policy Center at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has received a $9.3-million, five-year grant to assist the U.S. Department of Labor in measuring prevailing rates for construction workers working on federal construction projects throughout the nation.

The center — part of UT’s College of Business Administration — will conduct wage and benefit surveys of construction labor markets throughout the nation. The contract will require the center to add seven permanent wage analysts to its staff. In addition, the center will add six temporary employees to its staff to assist the Labor Department with implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Research Director William Schriver, who founded the center in the early 1980s, said the Department of Labor will use UT’s results to set local pay rates for local tradespersons and laborers. Schriver said the Davis-Bacon Act (1931) requires the payment of locally prevailing rates, established from surveys of contractors working on private projects in the area, to all mechanics and laborers performing construction work on federally funded projects.

“There is a common misconception that Davis-Bacon rates are merely union rates,” Schriver said. “But union rates are said to prevail only when more than 50 percent of local construction is performed by union workers. Otherwise, union and non-union rates are averaged to create the prevailing rate for as many as 30 trades and laborer categories. Based on the surveys conducted by the center, prevailing rates are established by the Department of Labor staff for every county in the U.S.”

Nancy Mason, a center coordinator, will supervise the wage survey activities, according to John Moore, acting director of the center.

Other UT research conducted under the Department of Labor contract includes:

Studying industry compliance with or violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which in 1938 established overtime wages for work exceeding 40 hours per week; a minimum wage; and laws prohibiting many forms of child labor.

Assisting the Department of Labor in implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In 2007, the center was awarded a $7 million contract by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to design and operate OSHA’s construction targeting system. Each month the center randomly selects about 1,400 construction sites from their file of over 3 million active sites for safety inspections by OSHA compliance officers. This contract also requires the center to analyze fatal construction events, identify direct and related cause of each event, and suggest intervention strategies.

C O N T A C T:

John Moore, (865-974-4955, jmoore10@utk.edu)

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