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Pay To Play Hits Taxpayers

Guest Commentary
by Diane Benjamin
March 13, 2011

Fact: The Springfield School Board President’s day job is Political Director of the AFL-CIO (according to LinkedIn)

Fact: The bid from an open shop (non-union) contractor for installing the Geothermal Well Field at Southeast High School in Springfield was thrown out on a technicality (see below) without discussion.

Fact: Accepting the next lowest bid from a union contractor cost the taxpayers of Springfield $125,000

Fact: Both non-union and union contractors are required to pay “Prevailing Wages” as mandated by the Illinois Department of Labor. (Look up their web site if you need a headache)

Fact: This same contractor was involved in another dispute with the Unit 5 School District in Normal in 2009. He was awarded the contract, then had it taken away after the local unions intimidated the school board. The contractor sued, the case was settled, and then the contract was sold because of rumors of union retaliation.

Are your property taxes out of control? Look at what percent goes to local schools. This one event in Springfield cost taxpayers $125,000. How many other contractors were refused contracts because they are open shop? How much did it cost the taxpayers of Unit 5 to defend the lawsuit? Since this one open-shop contractor was intimidated, how many others had their bids summarily dismissed or didn’t bid at all? This problem is not only with school districts. All government construction projects face this problem.

So, why do the unions feel the need to intimate government agencies so only they get the contracts? Hourly pay is mandated by law and benefits are comparable, the difference is pensions. The union receives money for pensions for every hour worked. Union pensions are seriously under-funded, and they need workers contributing. The open shop contractor also contributes to retirement for his workers, but he puts the money directly in an IRA plan administered by the employee. If his employees choose to leave, the retirement plan goes with them. If union employees choose to leave and they aren’t vested, they lose the pension.

One way the unions intimidate open shop contractors is by filing a complaint on the Prevailing Wage Act with the Illinois Department of Labor. The Department of Labor is required to investigate ALL complaints regardless of merit. First time violations can not be disputed, but they can be used against contractors when bidding a project. That is the ‘technicality’ the Springfield School Board used to dismiss the lowest bid. The contractor had made an accounting error that was promptly rectified. There is currently a bill in the Senate (SB1389) that would make it easier for open shops to bid on projects. It also provides a $5000 fine for knowingly filing a false complaint.

However, for real reform and tax relief, Attorney General Lisa Madigan needs to file action against unions that use intimidation and vandalism to keep open-shop labor out.

It’s your property tax bill.

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