Laborers Local 563 today called on the Minnetonka School Board to commission an independent investigation into possible violations of state and federal child-labor laws stemming from construction work at district’s Scenic Heights Elementary School.
Earlier this month, the Laborers notified state and federal regulators, as well as the school district, that a minor was apparently working on the Scenic Heights job site without safety equipment. The district responded, claiming the minor in question was a 17-year-old who was assisting his father, owner of a subcontracted firm doing work on the project, in full compliance with state labor laws.
After reviewing public records, however, the Laborers released a statement today calling the district’s conclusions wrong, misleading and deeply disturbing.
According to the union, records not only indicate that the boy in question is 14 and not 17, but they also indicate that he is not the son of the listed owner of the subcontractor, a potential violation of state child labor laws.
The union shared its findings with state and federal investigators looking into potential violations, as well as Minnetonka Schools Superintendent Dennis Peterson. According to the union, Peterson acknowledged the boy was not 17 but maintained that the boy’s employment was lawful.
The union’s statement claims the superintendent “indicated that he believed the boy’s father was a part-owner of Scott’s Concrete & Masonry Construction, but even if that were true, it would not appear to make the boy’s employment legal under Minnesota Administrative Rules 5200.0930 which requires that the employer be ‘totally owned by one or both parents.’”
Tim Mackey, business manager of Laborers Local 563, noted that the district is ultimately responsible for managing the project at Scenic Heights, and he questioned “whether the administration is more interested in maintaining cozy relationships with non-responsible contractors than protecting children.”
“We intend to pursue this issue until we are confident that no more children will be put at risk and that the responsible parties have been held accountable,” Mackey added.
An independent investigation, the union said, would send a message that the Minnetonka School District does not tolerate use of unsafe child labor, and help restore public confidence in the district’s management of its construction projects.
“It boils down to this district turning a blind eye to reports of blatant violations of child labor laws in order to cut corners,” Mackey said. “To acknowledge a problem and not do anything about it should be concerning to everyone including parents and taxpayers. How many other problems are happening on district projects that haven’t been discovered yet?”