Illinois Legislature moves to protect prevailing wage

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HOFFMAN
HOFFMAN

Bill is on governor’s desk

Springfield, IL – The Illinois Legislature has approved legislation designed to strengthen the state’s prevailing wage laws against the Republican state administration. It now awaits the governor’s signature.

Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) was the House sponsor of the bill, originally filed in February in the Senate and approved by the House on May 26. Prevailing wage is intended to maintain fair wages for highly skilled construction workers on public works projects. Traditionally, the Department of Labor uses information from contractor associations to determine the rates.

However, starting in July, and after Rauner became governor, the department stopped adopting rate increases, Hoffman said. The legislation sets up a statutory framework to streamline the wage determination process, he said.

“Maintaining a fair prevailing wage ensures that contractors compete on the basis of project management skill, safety and efficiency, rather than driving down worker pay,” Hoffman said. “As a result, workers receive a fair wage and employers benefit from the predictable costs of labor.”

The law would kick in when at least 30 percent of workers in a locality, typically a county, are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. If prevailing wages have not been established, the Department of Labor would use rates from adjacent localities.

THE OPPOSITION

Not surprisingly, the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce and the Associated General Contractors of Illinois have come out against the legislation. The Contractors group told its members that the law would allow prevailing wage rates to be set for counties where no such wage has yet been determined, if they are adjacent to a prevailing-wage county.

SMP 2x5 AdTo Hoffman, prevailing wage is necessary to maintain the viability of an area’s economy.

“Middle class families in our communities and across the state depend on a decent wage to support their families and avoid emergency room care, the costs of which are passed onto other taxpayers,” he said. “The wages they earn are pumped right back into our local economy and help to create jobs.”

Rep. Dan Beiser (D-Alton) joined with Hoffman as a co-sponsor of the bill. Metro East area legislators who voted for the bill also included Rep. Jerry Costello II of Red Bud, Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson of East St. Louis, Sen. Gary Forby of Benton, Sen. Bill Haine of Alton and Sen. Andy Manar of Bunker Hill, all Democrats.

Voting against it were Republicans Rep. Dwight Kay of Glen Carbon, Rep. Avery Bourne of Litchfield and Sen. Dave Luechtefeld of Okawville. One regional Republican voted for it – Sen. Sam McCann of Jacksonville.

Nobody would be surprised if Rauner vetoed it, but Democrats recently managed to override his veto of a Chicago-oriented bill, and the vote margins on the prevailing wage bill were substantial – 38-17 in the Senate, two short of a veto, but with some absent; and 72-40 in the House, enough to veto.

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