GENEVA – Kane County has eliminated a provision in its rules requiring contractors bidding on road construction and other county-funded projects to participate in federal government-approved apprenticeship and training programs.
The action comes even as state lawmakers consider enacting a law that would require such participation among public works contractors throughout Illinois.
The Kane County Board voted, 13-11, on Tuesday, largely along party lines, to eliminate the provision from the county’s prevailing wage ordinance.
That legal rule governs how much public works contractors are required to pay certain classifications of workers employed by the contractors when building roads and bridges, removing trees or performing other public works-related projects.
For years, the county’s prevailing wage ordinance has included a requirement that county contractors participate in apprenticeship and training programs sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Labor.
However, such programs typically are run by labor unions.
Most Republican members of the Kane County Board said they believed this provision effectively worked to limit the pool of potential bidders for county projects to unionized contractors. And that, they said, will cost taxpayers money.
“The bottom line is unions want a monopoly on government-contracted work, and they want us to help them create that monopoly,” said County Board member Drew Frasz, R-Elburn.
Democrats on the board, however, saw the issue differently, saying they believed the provision improves job opportunities for local workers, and produces better quality work while preventing contractors from outside the area from submitting artificially low estimates.
“I think this just levels the playing field,” said board member Cristina Castro, D-Elgin.
County Board member Brian Pollock, D-Aurora, noted that the Illinois General Assembly is nearing approval of legislation that will remove the county’s ability strip such apprenticeship program provisions from its prevailing wage ordinance.
“There is responsible bidding legislation out there, and it will pass,” Pollock said. “It will become the law of the land, and this will come back to us.”