Illinois law protects all workers - except truckers

| Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Illinois, like many states, has a law that protects all workers taking part in government jobs by making companies pay them the prevailing wage.

All workers, that is, except truckers.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported recently that the Illinois Department of Labor has decided not to enforce the provision on companies involved in the city of Chicago's Hired Truck Program. The reason? It would financially damage trucking companies.

The decision ignores the fact that the financial burden will be shifted from the companies to the workers, said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

The Department of Labor’s action amounts to “totally selective enforcement,” Spencer said. “I don’t know how else you could construe it.

“If the need for the law was such that it passed the Legislature and was put on the books, enforcement should be across the board,” he said. “You don’t pick and choose who you’re going to enforce the law on, with an exception for truck drivers.”

The Chicago program includes more than 130 companies, the newspaper said.

The Department of Labor’s own site says, “The Prevailing Wage Act requires contractors and subcontractors to pay laborers, workers and mechanics employed on public works construction projects no less than the general prevailing rate of wages (consisting of hourly cash wages plus fringe benefits) for work of a similar character in the county where the work is performed.”

The same site lists a series of possible prevailing wages for truck drivers in Cook County, running from $26.90 per hour to $28.05. In addition, the site says an employer engaged in a public works project would have to pay a driver $7.40 an hour in fringe benefits. 

Those rates cover a variety of trucks engaged in a number of activities, including two-, three-, four-, five- and six-axle trucks.

Normally, an employer that violates the act must pay the workers involved the difference between their salary and the prevailing wage. In addition, the company would face up to a 20 percent penalty and 2 percent punitive damages. If that company had violated the act twice, it could be barred from public works projects for two years, the Department of Labor’s Web site said.

The site even lists a number of companies that have been barred, including a roofing firm, a concrete company, a fencing provider and others.

“Obviously there was a need or a belief at the time the legislation was passed that such legislation was needed,” Spencer said. “There clearly is no exception for truck drivers in the law; there should be no exception in enforcement either.”

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at mark_reddig@landlinemag.com.