By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza has added to Labor’s string of victories in Springfield by signing an executive order committing her office to enforcing prevailing wage laws.
The order is connected to the $45 billion, six-year Rebuild Illinois capital development plan approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The Prevailing Wage Act requires contractors on publicly funded projects to pay wages based on local standards and avoid undermining local workers and economies. That works to boost those local economies when the money gets spent.
Mendoza’s action follows four years in which prevailing wage was opposed by the administration of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who often spoke of “reforming” the prevailing wage laws.
“The working men and women of Illinois fought for and secured a promise that they will be paid a prevailing wage on worksites across the state, and I will do my part to make sure that promise is honored,” Mendoza said in signing the order.
“Rebuild Illinois has the potential to change the landscape of Illinois. My office will do everything it can to lend support to the Department of Labor, bring more transparency to the construction program and hold state contractors accountable for paying fair wages.”
She warned that checks will not be issued to contractors whose workers are not receiving the prevailing wage.
LABOR ON THE SCENE
Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan and other Labor leaders were present for the signing.
“This is so important to the men and women around Illinois who get up early every day to carefully build roads and new schools and operate heavy machinery, and who expect a fair wage to take care of their families,” Carrigan said. “The prevailing wage is a bedrock component to supporting the middle class. It assures good jobs, local workforces and quality work. It makes sure taxpayers are getting the most from their investment.
“I disagree with this being framed as bloated and higher costs. Prevailing wage is a product of collective bargaining. Unions and employers sit down and have hard negotiations across the table.”
WHAT’S IN IT
Mendoza’s Executive Order 19-01 includes:
- Monitoring grants awarded for Rebuild Illinois and other public works programs.
- Directing enforcement officers to address queries from labor groups about contracts.
- Maintaining an inquiry form on the comptroller’s website.
- Providing support to the Illinois Department of Labor, which is responsible for investigating and enforcing compliance with the act.
Mendoza maintained support for prevailing wage during the Rauner years despite his opposition. The last similar comptroller’s order was signed in 2002 by Dan Hynes, who now serves as deputy governor.
“When I took office in 2016, we made sure to let folks know that our goal is to continue to enforce this executive act,” she said at a press conference. “What we’re doing now is just reaffirming it and updating it and getting the word out – as we embark on a $45 billion capital plan – that this is state law, people need to be aware of it and they need to abide by it.”
HALF A MILLION JOBS
Rebuild Illinois is expected to support an estimated 540,000 jobs directly or indirectly. Contractors who fail to comply with prevailing wage rules could face penalties and be barred from future public works projects.
Michael Macellaio, president of the Illinois Prevailing Wage Council and secretary-treasurer of the Chicago and Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council, thanked Mendoza for her action to support prevailing wage.
“We greatly appreciate Comptroller Mendoza putting these protections in place to create a level playing field, ensuring that contractors on state public works construction projects comply with the Prevailing Wage Act,” he said. “It’s that sort of commitment to standing behind the hard-working men and women of Illinois that assures us the state’s checkbook is in capable hands.”