Home Builders Survive Union Ambush
Bill Ward, Executive Vice President
For the second time in three years the Chicago Regional Carpenters Union has attempted to pass legislation in Springfield to impose joint liability on general contractors when subcontractors fail to pay their employees.
And, for the second time in three years, the Home Builders Association of Illinois held the line against the Carpenters’ 11th hour ambush to pass bad legislation without thorough review of the bill.
The Fall Veto Session of the Illinois General Assembly was held the last two weeks of October to address vetoes and amendatory vetoes sent back by the Governor on bills passed in the Spring Session.
The Veto Session is also a time for the most powerful entities in Springfield to attempt to pass controversial legislation in a manner that does not allow for proper transparency and allowance for public reaction.
HB3293 requires General Contractors to pay wages & benefits to subcontractors’ employees when they have not been paid by the subs. The contractor is held liable even though the GC has paid the sub.
This creates a situation where the GC will pay wages & benefits twice when the subcontractor has not paid his/her employees.
- GCs will need new liability insurance to protect themselves from wage protection lawsuits for years after a job is complete.
- GCs will need to hire office personnel to review subs payroll records.
- Subs will be required by GCs to obtain bonds to guarantee they can cover wages prior to beginning work.
- HB3293 overrides numerous court decisions dealing with the Mechanic’s Lien Law – this will increase Title Insurance rates and slow down the transfer of property.
- HB3293 creates a violation of federal law allowing GCs to acquire employee benefit information from Subs concerning HIPAA & ERISA.
- Lawsuits can be filed against homeowners in situations where work exceeds $100,000.
All in one day, Senate President Don Harmon allowed an amendment to be introduced on behalf of the Carpenters Union; placed it onto HB3923; approved it in committee; and passed it on the Senate floor on the night of October 27th.
On Thursday, October 28th, it was House Speaker Chris Welch’s turn to pass legislation in one day as the Senate had done the previous day. Only this time, the construction industry was ready and waiting for the charge on the final day of session.
The Home Builders formed a coalition of opposition that included:
- Black Contractors, Owners & Executives
- Hispanic American Construction Industry Association
- Illinois State Chamber
- Illinois Realtors
- Associated Builders & Contractors
- Mechanical Specialty Contractors
- Associated General Contractors
- Illinois Chemical Industry Council
- Road & Transportation Builders
- Landscape Contractors Association
- Manufacturers Association
- Association of Aggregate Producers
- Chicago & Downstate Roofing Contractors Association
- Illinois Construction Industry Council
On Thursday morning, every member of the Illinois House of Representatives received from HBAI:
- Our Position Paper of Opposition with a full list of Opponents.
- A real-life example of how the bill will increase regulation costs on a new home in Illinois by $10,000 that was written by one of our own HBAI board members.
- An alternative proposal that would provide better protection for subcontractors’ employees without an increase in bonding and title expense.
A hearing was held at 11 am Thursday morning in the House Executive Committee. HBAI and its coalition managed to rough up the bill in committee enough to make the Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Bob Rita, request that the bill be taken out of the record.
This provided time for the Carpenters Union to retreat and stage another attack in committee around 3pm. Again, enough questions were raised about the bill that Chairman Rita pulled the bill from consideration for the second time without a vote.
Finally, at about 6pm, the Executive Committee met for a third time with orders from House Democratic Leadership to get the bill out of committee and onto the House floor for final consideration even though members of the Black Caucus opposed the measure.
At that point, HBAI and its construction coalition could only wait and see if the vote would occur on the last day of session. In the end, House Speaker Welch allowed the House to adjourn at midnight without calling HB3923 for a final vote. We had won the day.
The next morning the construction lobby sent out text messages, emails, and phone calls to each other celebrating the defeat of the Carpenters Union ambush.
To all of you who called legislators and left messages, thank you for your participation in this great Home Builder Victory.
And, to all of you who have left our association in the past 12 months, I hope you wake up every night the rest of your lives wishing you had been a part of the fight!