US Department of Labor’s OSHA Cites Duce Construction for Failing to Protect Employees from Trench Dangers

SAVOY, Ill. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Duce Construction Co. with four safety violations, including three serious and one willful, for failing to protect workers from trenching hazards at a job site on East Airport Road in Savoy. OSHA opened the February 2014 inspection under theNational Emphasis Program for trenching and excavation. Proposed penalties total $59,500.

“It is unacceptable for Duce Construction to allow workers into an unprotected trench. Each year, trench collapses result in numerous deaths and serious injuries,” said Thomas Bielema, OSHA’s area director in Peoria. “Employers that specialize in this type of work must take all necessary precautions to ensure their employees have safe working conditions.”

There were two trench boxes used in the excavation. Workers were exposed to soil avalanching and cave-in hazards because the company failed to ensure that the boxes were used correctly. A willful violation was cited for failing to ensure workers were protected from these hazards. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

(Read More)

Collaborative Development: The Benefits of Public-Private Partnership

A new ILEPI Policy Brief, released this morning, investigates the pros and cons of public-private partnerships in the construction industry.

The report, Collaborative Development: The Pros and Cons of P3s on Construction Projects (PDF), finds that public-private partnerships (P3s)- such as the proposed Illiana Expressway– offer the potential for significant cost savings for the public sector. P3s allow governments to increase internal investment, capitalize on the efficiencies and innovations of private companies, and build infrastructure slightly less expensively and slightly more quickly. For the private sector, P3s provide stable assets (infrastructure facilities) with predictable long-term returns from user fees for portfolio diversification. P3s also allow private entities, backed by the government, to borrow cheaply.

The Policy Brief utilizes case studies to demonstrate how P3s may be mutually beneficial and discusses the expected positive benefits of three potential P3 projects in the Midwest.

(Read More)(Copy of Report)

United States: Illinois Supreme Court Upholds One Of The Nation’s Strictest Worker Misclassification Laws; Employers May Face Millions Of Dollars In Penalties

Worker misclassification is now a bet-the-company issue.

On February 21, 2004, the Illinois Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to Illinois’s Employee Classification Act (the “ECA”), a law that defines most individuals who perform construction-related services as employees of the company who retains them, even if the relationship is set up as an independent contractor relationship.  Illinois’s ECA is one of the strictest worker misclassification statutes in the country.

Bartlow v. Costigan arose out of a preliminary finding that a small construction firm, Jack’s Roofing, had misclassified 10 workers as independent contractors instead of employees for periods ranging from 8 to 160 days in 2008.  The Illinois Department of Labor calculated a potential penalty for having misclassified these 10 workers as $1.6 Million.  Under the Illinois misclassification law, each day that each worker is misclassified is considered a separate violation, with fines of up to $1,000 for a first offense.  Willful violations result in triple damages.  Subsequent violations double the penalties again.

(Read More)

(Please note that the date of this court decision is actually February 21, 2014)

16th Annual NAFC Conference to be held in Chicago, Illinois

NAFC has announced that it will be holding its 16th Annual Conference this year in the lakeside city of Chicago, IL, September 17-19, 2014.

The NAFC Conference provides a national forum for those committed to combating noncompliance of state and federal public contracting laws and  draws attendance from contractors, labor unions, fair contracting organizations, attorneys and various officials from local, state and federal governments around the nation.

More information coming soon! 

Just Announced: 16th Annual NAFC Conference to be held in Chicago, Illinois

NAFC has announced that it will be holding its 16th Annual Conference this year in the lakeside city of Chicago, IL, September 17-19, 2014.

The NAFC Conference provides a national forum for those committed to combating noncompliance of state and federal public contracting laws and  draws attendance from contractors, labor unions, fair contracting organizations, attorneys and various officials from local, state and federal governments around the nation.

More information coming soon!

Repeal of prevailing wage law would result in a weakened economy, University researchers say

Pressure from increasing state budget deficits, as well as debt from underfunded pensions, have caused critics to call for the repeal of Illinois’ prevailing wage law for government construction projects.

However, according to new research co-authored by a University labor expert, Illinois’ prevailing wage law creates many positive economic and social impacts, and repealing it would not result in any considerable savings for taxpayers or the state.

“We have a strong prevailing wage law in Illinois,” said Robert Bruno, professor of labor and employment relations. “It’s better than most states in that it assures public projects are done efficiently and on time with the best results possible.”

(Read More)

(Full PDF Copy of Study)

Income inequality is fixable in construction

Across the country, states and localities can respond to the President’s call to action and grow wages, create jobs, and reduce income inequality in at least one sector: the construction industry. Today, the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) is pleased to release a new study co-authored with Professor Robert Bruno, a labor expert at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, on labor market institutions in the construction industry.

The study, Which Labor Market Institutions Reduce Income Inequality? Labor Unions, Prevailing Wage Laws, and Right-to-Work Laws in the Construction Industry, finds that prevailing wage laws did a good job matching common construction rates with the actual market price of labor, increasing worker incomes by just 1.2 percent. On the other hand, they have no negative effect on the total incomes of contractor CEOs. Prevailing wage laws, the data show, reduce income inequality between the highest earners and the lowest earners of the construction industry by 45.1 percent.