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Stopping the Attack on the Prevailing Wage Act

January 7, 2019

The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) did it again. Without notice or an explanation, IDOL’s Conciliation and Mediation Division changed the prevailing wage survey methodology in June 2018 and posted rates in August with thousands of inconsistencies. For example, many rates are missing a “foreman” rate, and others have a new rate for “other” benefits without a clear explanation of what those benefits are.

After the Department received many inquiries about the rates, IDOL posted an explanation of the new methodology on its website. Nevertheless, the posted rates created months of confusion and frustration for contractors, workers, and public bodies throughout the state.

Fortunately, Labor and Management are working together to resolve these issues. First, the discrepancies are being addressed and resolved on a case-by-case basis with IDOL’s Legal Division.

Second, the General Assembly recognized the unnecessary chaos the Conciliation and Mediation Division created as it mishandled the prevailing wage survey process throughout the Rauner administration and, in response, recently passed Senate Bill 203. When enacted, SB 203 will ensure that prevailing wage rates are based on collective bargaining agreements, where these agreements cover at least 30% of the workers in the locality where the work is being performed.

This is the second time in his four-year administration that Governor Rauner’s anti-worker policies have disrupted decades of well-established prevailing wage policy and practice. In 2016, the General Assembly passed an identical bill to address this problem, but it was vetoed by Governor Rauner. It’s expected that different administrations will implement new policies or practices. The Rauner administration’s sudden and unexplained change, without notice to the interested parties, is simply an abuse of authority.

It is also important to recognize that past Republican administrations never attacked middle-class protections like the Prevailing Wage Act, as Governor Rauner did. That said, Illinois residents definitively rejected the Governor’s agenda when they overwhelmingly voted for JB Pritzker in November 2018, electing an advocate for working families and a strong middle class.

SB 203 is expected to be signed by Governor Pritzker in early 2019. The new legislation will codify decades of prevailing wage policy in Illinois that promotes a high road economy, including a construction industry that emphasizes training, skilled workmanship, workplace safety, and good middle-class jobs.