Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Frank Manzo, policy director of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, tells contractors, attorneys and public bodies the ins and outs of prevailing wage during a recent CISCO-sponsored workshop.
By Pat Barcas
Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at email@example.com
DOWNERS GROVE — The changing landscape of prevailing wage coverage was discussed with public bodies, contractors and attorneys Sept. 11 in Downers Grove at a workshop put on by the Construction Service Industry Corporation (CISCO).
Robert Bruno, University of Illinois professor in the school of Labor and Employment Relations, presented his research on prevailing wage in Illinois along with Frank Manzo, policy director of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute.
“Why research prevailing wage? Too often public policy gets implemented, and people who interact with it are not fully versed,” said Bruno. “Stories get told, myths get created, people get confused.”
Bruno co-published a study in Oct. 2013 about the implications for adopting right-to-work laws in Illinois. He said the analysis included the impact of repealing prevailing wage in Illinois, which has only gotten stronger in the state, never weaker.
“Let’s do some analysis, study it, put some good data in front of the people,” said Bruno. “Let’s look at the costs, the benefits, and the burdens.”
There were four conclusions in regards to prevailing wage in Illinois: There is no impact on total project cost, it builds middle-class jobs, it’s the best deal for the taxpayers, and it discourages irresponsible contractors.
“Total training hours are higher, resulting in an increase in worker skills. These are not low skill jobs, these are high skill,” said Manzo.
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Robert Bruno, University of Illinois professor in the school of Labor and Employment Relations said prevailing wage is the best deal for taxpayers because it discourages irresponsible contractors.
Injury and mortality rates are also lower as a result of the higher skill, which lowers project costs. It all translates to higher worker productivity.
“We like productivity, it’s a good thing,” said Manzo.
Under prevailing wage, out-of-state contractors are reduced. The value of construction done by in-state firms is higher.
“By keeping jobs local, it allows workers to earn a market wage, and creates a self-sufficient worker,” said Manzo. “This prevents a race to the bottom. It also takes labor costs out of the equation. You pay that wage and compete in other areas, such as material costs.”
Bruno said prevailing wage is the best deal for taxpayers because it discourages irresponsible contractors.
“There would be no strong private sector without public infrastructure. You’re playing with fire if you don’t establish a strong criteria for people to work on this infrastructure,” said Bruno. “With prevailing wage, you are setting a criteria of having to constantly train and re-train for the job. It’s a competent crew who has their hands on the people’s assets.”