By Stuart R. Wahlin
Comprehensive Community Solutions (CCS), Inc., the nonprofit parent organization of Rockford YouthBuild, has been ordered to remit $34,746.37 in back pay, plus a $6,949.27 penalty, related to the deconstruction of seven buildings at the former Hines Lumber Company site at 721 Pearl Ave. in Loves Park.
The ruling from Enus Higgins, a labor conciliator and arbitrator with the Illinois Department of Labor, was issued to CCS April 20 after a complaint was filed several weeks prior by Carpenters Local 792.
CCS hired five of its YouthBuild graduates as part of a green job training program made possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The group secured a $19,000 contract from the City of Loves Park to perform deconstruction, which would salvage construction materials from the dismantled structures, rather than sending them to the landfill.
The city did not require that prevailing wages be paid for the project, noting that such a requirement would render deconstruction unfeasible. According to state Department of Labor documents, the trainees were paid a base rate of $10 per hour, while Project Manager Bill Howard was paid a base rate of $21.63 per hour.
The carpenters union, however, asserted that prevailing wages applied to the public project, arguing deconstruction falls under the definition of demolition. An amendment to state law, which took effect Jan. 1, mandates prevailing wages for publicly-funded demolition.
CCS Founder and Executive Director Kerry Knodle, however, argued deconstruction is not specifically mentioned in the amended act. Knodle asserted deconstruction is not the same as demolition, and that the deconstruction agreement was signed in 2009, before the amendment was in effect.
Although an April 2 notice from the Illinois Department of Labor to CCS specifically noted, “Pursuant to P.A. 96-0437, effective January 1, 2010, a public body or other entity that fails to provide proper written notice to its public works contractor that a project is subject to Illinois prevailing wage requirements is, itself, liable for interest, penalties and fines as stated under Section 4 (a-3) of the Act,” the City of Loves Park has not been the target of complaints from the carpenters union.
The city has since dropped plans for deconstruction, opting instead for demolition at prevailing wages for union laborers.
The carpenters union also filed a related federal lawsuit March 11, alleging that CCS is bound by a collective bargaining agreement. Brad Long, business manager for Local 792 and president of the Northwestern Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council, alleged CCS Construction, LLC, a for-profit contractor that filed for bankruptcy last year, is now doing business under the guise of nonprofit CCS. The lawsuit seeks a $48,785.76 arbitration award.
Meantime, Local 792 also appears poised to file additional labor complaints against CCS, specifically regarding a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) project at Rockton Avenue and Whitman Street in Rockford. The LEED project would result in the city’s first zero-net-energy homes.
City officials, who recently received a Freedom of Information Act request from Local 792, assert the project is not subject to prevailing wage law, however.
From the April 28-May 4, 2010 issue