Costigan: Best defense for workers is a good offense

By Pat Barcas
Staff Writer

SCHAUMBURG — Joe Costigan, director of the Illinois Department of Labor, said labor in Illinois needs to take “high road values” in order to succeed.
Costigan was the keynote speaker Jan. 27 at CISCO’s annual meeting in Schaumburg. He emphasized solidarity and tackling issues together as ways to solve slumping business numbers due to the poor economy.
Costigan criticized many contractors and other employers that come through his office as taking the “low road.”
“At the department, we see the low road taken a lot. People who don’t pay prevailing wage, or miss-categorize independent contractors. These people don’t care. It’s a race to the bottom. That needs to stop,” he said. “Values that I call high road values help both contractors and workers. We’re all in this toghether. Help each other, and this helps you.”
He said cutting corners is becoming rampant, and he sees union members forgetting what it means to be part of a union.
“I’m proud to be union. We all have to take a stand together. It’s alarming how we’ve gotten away from this,” he said.
Illinois, however, is still a stronghold of union support, according to Costigan. He wants people to band together and repeal union attacks whenever they can. He praised Governor Pat Quinn’s pro labor stance.
“People want to take a low road attack on us. I see it happening in neighboring states: Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio,” he said. “Fortunately I work for a governor who believes in good values, collaboration, and that working people are the engines of the economy.”
A major problem identified by Costigan is employee classification. He said a new employee classification act is in the works as of now.
“This is an extremely important issue. Misclassification is a growing problem for the construction industry, and a tremendous problem for both workers and businesses,” he said. “We are serious about our fight for workers through different acts, and recovered almost $5 million for workers in underpaid wages last year.”
Costigan closed by saying his office is developing a good offense to serve as a good defense.
“We’re modernizing our systems to do things better. We’re trying to build a department that’s aggressive and works for the betterment of the people of Illinois. If we’re going to defend the rights of the workers of Illinois, we need to develop a good offense.”

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