SPRINGFIELD – Legislation that would have made prime, or direct, contractors liable for the unpaid wages of workers employed by sub-contractors has stalled in the Illinois General Assembly.
The sponsors, unions and construction industry representatives were in discussions over the proposed amendment to the Wages Payment and Collection Act, but were unable to arrive at a deal before the close of the session.
"And that it is a good thing; it was a bad bill," said Mark Grant, Illinois state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. "One of the problems: It was going to put a prime contractor in double jeopardy if a subcontractor does not pay their wages."
Mark Grant, Illinois state director of the National Federation of Independent Business
Under the proposed bill, the onus would be on the main contractor for unpaid wages of second and other tier subcontractors. They would also have been liable for benefits and payments to third parties and could have their property seized, should they be sued.
The prime contractor would be on the hook for the subcontractors' workers' wages, even if the subcontractor had already been paid.
All sides agreed that it is an issue when a worker does not get paid, but there was some confidence that there were ways to work through differences, Grant said.
Grant acknowledged there is a problem, and no one wants to see bad players in any industry.
"But it did not get done by the end of the session," Grant said of the bill, which had already passed the House.
It is possible, though unlikely, that the bill will be raised when the General Assembly reconvenes for the so-called fall veto session, said Grant. He said similar legislation could also be filed next year.
Two states, California and Maryland, have introduced similar legislation in recent years.
Direct contractors are liable in Illinois and many other states for the unpaid wages of workers employed by subcontractors on public projects covered by the Davis-Bacon Act, a law dating back to the 1930s.