By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – Labor and its allies completed another good session in the Illinois General Assembly, which adjourned after passing a $42.3 billion budget and several bills designed to help workers.
The Illinois AFL-CIO reported that the budget bill included closing $655 million in corporate tax loopholes.
“Business tax breaks have proliferated over the years, putting significant pressure on middle-class workers to pay the difference,” the AFL-CIO said in its legislative report.
Local legislators sponsored a bill now on its way to the governor to ensure that all eligible employees are paid the prevailing wage on public works construction projects.
Sen. Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) and Rep. LaToya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis) sponsored the measure. The Prevailing Wage Act already requires contractors and subcontractors to pay workers on the project no less than the average rate in the county where the work is being done.
But the law will require the Department of Labor’s electronic database of payroll records to be listed by the middle of each month and searchable by the public to ensure compliance with prevailing wage laws.
“The government shouldn’t be involved in underpaying construction workers,” Belt said. “We owe it to the public to generate good-paying jobs and guarantee that government construction projects are done the right way. This added transparency will help make sure these employees are receiving the wage they deserve.”
The bill passed the Senate 42-11 and the House unanimously. Sen. Jason Plummer (R-Vandalia) was among those voting no. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.
JOINING A UNION
The Legislature agreed to amend the Illinois Labor Relations Act to allow workers to use electronic communications to show their interest in forming a union instead of requiring paper. It also prohibits the use of permanent strike workers to replace workers on strike.
In the Senate, southern Illinois Democrats Rachelle Crowe, Belt and Doris Turner all voted for it and it passed 40-15. Southern Illinois Republicans Dale Fowler, Plummer and Terri Bryant all voted against it. The House vote was 67-43 in favor, with Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) and Greenwood supporting it and most Republicans against it.
A bill passed by both chambers will ensure that auto mechanics get equal pay for vehicle repairs made under warranty as for repairs paid for by customers. It passed unanimously in the Senate but Republicans mustered 24 “No” votes in the House, where it passed 85-24.
Turner, Crowe, Belt and Hoffman all were sponsors.
The Legislature voted to restore bargaining rights to public employees who had been designated supervisory without consideration of their actual job duties under former Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The state AFL-CIO said the bill “restores their collective bargaining rights, protects the legitimacy of collective bargaining agreements and creates reasonable time frames to negotiate state labor contacts.”
The bill passed 76-39 in the House and 44-11 in the Senate, with Plummer casting one of the “No” votes.
The new Walker’s Bluff casino and resort, now under construction in Carterville in Williamson County between Carbondale and Marion, will be built under a Project Labor Agreement according to a bill passed unanimously in the House and with only two ‘no’ votes in the Senate.
The plan is for 1,200 gaming machines, a hotel with 330 guest rooms, a deluxe spa, restaurants, indoor-outdoor water park and 12,000 square feet of convention and entertainment space.
Sponsors included Hoffman and Katie Stuart, (D-Edwardsville), in the House and Belt and Crowe in the Senate. Plummer provided one of the only two no votes in the Senate.
Also on prevailing wage, a bill was passed to require public electronic publishing of certified payrolls to make the information more widely available to workers.
Even this obvious improvement drew 11 “no” votes from Senate Republicans. The House passed it unanimously. Senate sponsors from southern Illinois included Belt, Crowe and Turner, plus Greenwood in the House.