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IL Pay-Hater Touts Rauner’s Agenda in Kane County, but Prevailing Wage Survives Symbolic Vote

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What should have been a housekeeping item for the Kane County Board became a prevailing wage showdown, with outlier GOP board members attempting to abide by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s “turnaround agenda” and reject the long-established wage ordinance.  Each year, the Illinois Department of Labor asks each county board to pass a resolution outlining the prevailing wage for various trades.  The action is mostly symbolic as there is no penalty for rejecting the measure. Even if the county board formally rejects the prevailing wage ordinance it is still a misdemeanor to not pay the proper wage on county projects.  

The ceremonial anti-prevailing wage vote was spearheaded by non-union contractor and board member Drew Frasz.  He lead a similarly ceremonial vote against the prevailing wage the year prior.  Frasz, who is vice chairman of the board, had just 5 of the board’s 15 Republicans join him in the decorated low-road display.

Frasz explained his trite position in terms of “taxpayers,” saying:

”I will be voting no on this as I do every year.  I want to bring light to the prevailing wage law and bring it into public focus again. This is a 1930s era law that requires taxpayers to pay a 15 to 20 percent premium on bids as opposed to shopping the free market for the best price.”

His argument was countered by many on the board, including Brian Dahl, who serves as an official with the Painters District Council 30.  He suggests that the law is a “framework for which labor markets operate to improve living standards and ensure that economic development is shared”:

”Prevailing wages contribute to the local economy by the consumer spending of construction workers and reduce the downward pressure on construction wages and benefits which result from a low-bid system.  The law also benefits military veterans, those who own contract companies and those who work in the field.”

Dahl waxed patriotic, tying construction wages to servicemembers’ futures. Attacking the prevailing wage is akin to attacking the more-than-7,000 union construction firms owned by military veterans, he explained, that would lead to a $44.3 million loss in state and local taxes as well as $115.8 million in lost federal tax revenue.

Board member Deb Allan feels Dahl’s pain — and the pain of the mainstream working class:

“I will, of course, support this because this is how we’ve built the middle class in this country,” she said.  “Most of us are somewhere in that middle.”

The ordinance ultimately passed on a majority vote, but remains a focal point of arguments in Springfield surrounding Gov. Rauner’s inability to pass a budget that both sides accept.


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