The prevailing wage law requires all contractors and subcontractors for works built by any public body with public funds to be paid the hourly rate set by the Illinois Department of Labor for that county.
Although the vote was 5-1, with council member RB Thompson being the sole yes vote and Mayor Brian Sager absent, the city still is required to follow prevailing wage laws.
“We took a stand as a council before, and I urge council again to take a stand and vote this thing down to say that we’re not going to validate this terrible law,” council member Mike Turner, who acted as mayor pro tempore for the meeting, said before the vote was made.
The item was pulled for discussion before the vote by council member Maureen Larson who called it “troubling on many levels” that the state of Illinois mandates governments vote “yes” on the ordinance.
Larson highlighted what she believed were other problems with the law, referencing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to say that wages listed for some jobs are well above the national median, and therefore wasting taxpayer’s money.
“While I understand that there’s a desire for people who want to protect their income and to protect those income levels, to guarantee those income levels, I guess I feel like at some point we’ve got to protect the taxpayer,” Larson said.
City Attorney Ruth Schlossberg said the legal consequences of not passing the prevailing wage law are unknown.
She noted there is some ambiguity in the law, “because it does mandate that you vote and adopt prevailing wage, but the same law clearly contemplates that if you fail to do so the state rates apply.”
The city already has an ordinance in the books saying the prevailing wage rate be paid, Schlossberg said, and the city did not run into any problems by not passing it last year, aside from hearing from the unions.
Thompson said after the meeting he voted yes because he comes from a union family, and he believes the city needs highly skilled and qualified people to work on projects, such as the Old Courthouse.