We're almost there! On a bipartisan basis, the Illinois Senate concurred with the House on SB1720, the Illinois Fighting Wage Theft Bill, and now it goes to Governor Rauner for his hoped-for signature.
And we are hopeful, because this is a good bill that helps not only workers, but ethical businesses, the Illinois economy, and its taxpayers. If you don't believe us, here's what State Rep. Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) said:
“In this time of fiscal crisis, we need to make sure that taxpayer-funded state contracts are only going to companies which treat their employees fairly. The vast majority of Illinois businesses, which play by the rules and do right by their employees, deserve a level playing field. Taxpayers deserve more confidence on how their money is spent. I was proud to support this common-sense measure.”
Washington State just enacted a bill similar to the Illinois Fighting Wage Theft Act, barring businesses that willfully violate wage theft laws from receiving state contracts.
What's notable is the degree of bipartisanship displayed in supporting this bill. It was sponsored by a Republican in the Senate, and by Democrat in the House, and the respective votes were 46-3 and 63-33. Impressive.
As Senator Miloscia (R-Auburn), the Senate sponsor, explained, “The state shouldn't be supporting businesses that are taking hard-earned dollars from the state’s workers." He also said, "This change will affirm the state’s commitment to protecting workers and reward businesses who respect the law and take care of their employees.”
The Attorney General's press release also quoted statistics from the Economic Policy Institute highlighting that the dollar value of wage theft is twice that of robberies at banks, gas stations, and grocery stores.
Kudos to Washington State!
The Illinois Fighting Wage Theft Act passed out of the Senate Thursday afternoon, 30-22, on party lines. Many, many thanks to Senator Daniel Biss for sponsoring and shepherding the bill through the labor committee and the Senate floor, and thanks to Senators Cristina Castro and Emile Jones, plus a big shout-out to Senator Linda Holmes for sticking up for the bill (and us!) earlier in committee and again today on the floor.
SB1720 does two things to combat wage theft:
- Slightly increases penalties on businesses that refuse to pay wage theft judgments.
- Bars businesses that have repeat or willful wage theft violations from being awarded state contracts.
You might think that getting businesses to pay wage theft judgments wouldn’t be a problem, but it is. In California, for example,only 12% of workers get the money they’re owed. So this bill provides a greater incentive to pay up.
As for the state contract provision, we feel the state should demonstrate leadership by not spending taxpayer money on unethical employers. Residents want their taxes to go to ethical employers, because that means more money gets to workers, who then spend their earnings on other Illinois businesses.
When workers get paid for all their work, they spend money on other Illinois businesses, stimulating the economy. They’re less likely to need public assistance, another boon to taxpayers. And ethical businesses can compete the way they prefer, by providing their customers with great products and services.
Now, on to the House.