On October 25, the III FFC hosted a prevailing wage seminar at the Double Tree Hotel in Downers Grove. With close to two-hundred attendees, the III FFC was thrilled with the turnout, which included many public bodies, labor organizations, and contractors. Speakers included: Melissa Binetti, III FFC Counsel; Michael Duffee, Partner at Thompson Coburn LLP; Frank Manzo IV, Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) Policy Director; Josh Weger, III FFC Policy Director; and Leah Bartelt, Assistant Attorney General at the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Bureau.
Mid-America Regional Bargaining Association (MARBA) Executive Director Aaron Janik started the event by explaining that prevailing wage policy is an area where labor and management work together cohesively. He also introduced Melissa Binetti, who gave an overview of the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act (PWA), and Mike Duffee, who spoke from a management-perspective.
Melissa Binetti explained that prevailing wage laws set predetermined wages and fringe benefit rates for workers in a particular locality on public works construction projects. This helps ensure workers are paid a living wage, and it helps deter out of state contractors from undercutting worker wages. Binetti also discussed the responsibilities public bodies and contractors have under the PWA to ensure workers are paid the applicable prevailing wage rate.
Next, Michael Duffee spoke about the PWA from a management perspective, highlighting aspects of the law that “every contractor should know.” Drawing on experience representing contractors in litigation as well as in proceedings before the Illinois Department of Labor, Duffee shared real life legal experience with the attendees. He also covered some of the more confusing areas of prevailing wage enforcement, such as transportation of materials and equipment, landscape work, and prevailing wage rates vs. collectively bargained rates. He emphasized the importance of record keeping under the PWA.
Wrapping up the morning, Frank Manzo IV of ILEPI gave a presentation on the economic benefits of prevailing wage. His research shows that prevailing wage helps build careers, not just jobs. And he discussed how prevailing wage requirements support middle class jobs and invest in the next generation of workers by strengthening apprenticeship training programs. Finally, he pointed to research that shows prevailing wage supports higher quality infrastructure, making it the best deal for taxpayers.
In the afternoon, Josh Weger discussed the advantages of Responsible Bidder Ordinances (RBOs), which establish objective criteria to help ensure public bodies contract with “high road” contractors. Stated differently, RBOs help ensure public works projects will be completed safely, efficiently, on time, and on budget.
Finally, Leah Bartelt ended the afternoon with a discussion about the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. Bartelt’s presentation included a wealth of information about the requirements of the Act. She reminded attendees that the Act presumes that public records should be open to the public for inspection and copying, unless there is a “clear and convincing” reason to exempt the records. Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions about best practices and complying with the law.
The III FFC thanks all the organizations who sponsored the event, including the Construction Industry Service Corporation; Mid-America Regional Bargaining Association; Underground Contractors Association; National Alliance for Fair Contracting; Chicago & Cook County Building & Construction Trades Council; Northwestern Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council; the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters; and the Illinois Prevailing Wage Council.
Overall, the III FFC’s Prevailing Wage Seminar was a great success and we look forward to hosting it again next year!