Are children working on Minnesota school construction sites?


The Laborers International Union has identified a second possible case of child labor being used on Minnesota construction sites and has alerted authorities at both the state and national level.

A formal complaint was submitted Tuesday to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry and the United States Department of Labor on behalf of Laborers International Union of North America Local 563, regarding a possible violation of child labor laws at a construction site at a Minnetonka elementary school.

The complaint, verified by union representatives, documents that a minor child was apparently working on a concrete pour at Scenic Heights Elementary School at 5650 Scenic Heights Dr., in Minnetonka. A representative of Local 563 was at the school for an unrelated matter, when he noticed the boy, who appeared to be underage.

The boy initially claimed to be 18, but a co-worker whom the boy identified as his father admitted that the boy was not an adult, the union said.

The complaint is the second of its kind filed by the Laborers in the past two weeks. Previously, a child was discovered working on a similar school renovation project in nearby Edina.

“It’s becoming clear that these aren’t isolated incidents, but rather a disturbing trend of contractors cutting corners and putting children in harm’s way,” said Tim Mackey, business manager for Laborers Local 563. “Children should be learning in the classroom, not building them.”

Employment of children under age 18 is regulated by both state and federal law. Under the U. S. Fair Labor Standards Act, violators are subject of fines of up to $10,000 for each child they employ; a second conviction may result in imprisonment.

Mackey said that the Minnetonka School District has not yet responded to the complaint.

“This is serious and the school district needs to understand that,” he said. “And if the school district thinks this is limited to child labor, they may be in for a surprise. A contractor that permits child labor on a construction site may also be cutting corners when he comes to construction quality and public safety.”

Mackey says Local 563 intends to see this issue through to a conclusion.

“We intend to make sure all the responsible parties are held accountable, and we will keep our eyes open for further potential violations,” he said. “With so many skilled and well-trained workers eager to work, there is no need for any child – especially a child without proper training and safety gear- to be on a job site.”

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