* Mark Glennon in Crain’s…
Mayors and village managers across Illinois often complain bitterly that they have little control over the cost of the governments they run. They’re mostly right, and it’s thanks to unfunded mandates imposed by the state. Those mandates include workers’ compensation, binding arbitration for labor contracts and pension coverage.
This is about another one of those unfunded mandates—prevailing wage requirements for public works—and the numbers are scandalous.
The Illinois Department of Labor publishes, county by county, the hourly wages local governments must pay contractors and subcontractors. It’s important to note, and often overlooked, that 1) wages are set based on compensation paid on other public works, not private-sector compensation; 2) municipalities have to pay the cash equivalent of the additional compensation, including pension benefits, paid on other public works; and 3) all of that must be calculated on a full-time-equivalent basis to understand it properly.
The all-in result: The average total full-time-equivalent compensation, including benefits, for all job categories over all counties is $119,000.
* Jim Sweeney of Local 150 claims in a rebuttal that Glennon’s $119K figure is baloney because it assumes all construction workers are employed throughout the year…
The average salaries that Glennon suggests are preposterous, as construction workers do not earn “full-time equivalent” wages. Most construction is seasonal work, influenced as much by weather as by municipal budgets. According to the 2016 Economic Census of Construction, the average public works construction worker in Illinois clocked an average of 1,786 hours in a year, and earned an average base wage of $60,000. Put in perspective, that’s roughly the same as the statewide median household income figure Mr. Glennon cites in his column—a figure that is conveniently distorted downward by its inclusion of people who are either not working or work part time.
By contrast, most other occupations in Illinois are easily working the full-time equivalent of 2,080 hours per year.
Weather is a factor, but so is the availability of jobs. Very often, even with perfect weather, the jobs just aren’t there.
* Glennon penned a rebuttal to Sweeney on his own blog…
Annualizing it is just a way to illustrate what people are making on a basis readers recognize.
* Back to Glennon’s Crain’s column…
Vermilion County is an illustration: The average, total full-time-equivalent yearly compensation for a prevailing-wage worker in cities and towns in that central Illinois county is over $100,000.
Does anybody really think that annual compensation over $100,000 is “prevailing” in Vermilion County? Median household income for the county is only $43,600. Statewide, the median is just $59,000.
Comparing construction worker wages to all wages seems odd. Should we do that for Medicaid doctors, too?