On June 3, the Woodstock City Council voted 4-2 to reject a prevailing wage ordinance. Unfortunately, it’s a hollow gesture, as described in this week’s Woodstock Independent:
“Illinois’ Prevailing Wage Act requires municipalities and other taxing bodies to ensure contracted workers — generally used for public works projects — are paid at a rate set by the Illinois Department of Labor. Rates vary by county and usually are based on union wages. Under law, the city is required to adopt a local ordinance verifying the prevailing wage rates paid on those projects. The ordinance applies to all contractors hired by the city for public improvement projects, but it does not apply to city employees or service contracts that do not include construction, with some exceptions.”
According to an attorney for the Illinois Department of Labor, if the ordinance isn’t passed by June 30, the Department will pass one on its behalf.
Councilwoman Maureen Larson said:
“The taxpayers should be absolutely outraged by this, but it is so hard to get a handle on the fact that we don’t have a choice on voting for it,” she said. “It is absolutely shrouded in mystery, purposefully, in order for this to continue, but the public needs to know that this is just unacceptable.”
Rates vary by county, but they are usually based on union wages.
Prevailing wage laws are nothing more than crony capitalism being practiced by organized labor. The power that unions hold over the Illinois legislature is never so apparent as when a municipality or county is reduced to nothing more than a rubber-stamp.
These laws also serve the interests of large companies that get the overwhelming number of public works contracts throughout the state by acting as a barrier to entry for smaller companies. A guy with a truck and a backhoe and a couple of employees trying to make his living can’t compete when he has to bid on the basis of wage rates set by government. They’re shut out of the process.
The Council will re-visit the issue in its June 17 meeting, and even though it’s a futile gesture, they should tell the state: You’re going to have to impose this upon us, we won’t give you cover by pretending that we agree with it. Stick to your guns, guys.