Are children working on Minnesota school construction sites?

MINNETONKA, Minn. (PAI and Workday Minnesota) — 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.

Laborers Local 563 submitted a formal complaint in mid-July to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry and the federal Department of Labor, 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 Local 563 representative 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 the boy was not an adult, the union said.

The complaint is the second of its kind the Laborers filed in July. 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 Local 563. “Children should be learning in the classroom, not building them.”

State and federal law both regulate employment of children under age 18. 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 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.” He added 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,” Mackey 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.”

Photo: The Laborers Union says a youth under age 18 was working on this school construction site in Minnetonka, in possible violation of state and federal law. Workday Minnesota.




Barb Kucera
Barb Kucera

Barb Kucera was editor of Workday Minnesota. She served for 6 years as director of the Labor Education Service, which publishes Workday. Kucera has degrees in journalism and industrial relations and a background in communications, including as editor of The Union Advocate. She is an associate member of the Minnesota Newspaper and Communications Guild/CWA Local 37002.