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Beach Park mayor balks at prevailing wage law

Updated: August 29, 2012 1:43AM

Beach Park Mayor John Hucker isn’t happy about the state-mandated prevailing wage law most Lake County municipalities routinely approve annually.

On Thursday night, the Village Board approved what has usually been a nondescript agenda item setting the prevailing rate of wages for outside laborers, workmen and mechanics hired by the municipality.

The voting is basically a formality, explained Attorney Rudy Magna, and it must pass without fail when it is brought up to vote each June. The prevailing rate of wage ordinance happens to be a state mandate.

Magna explained if the worker’s employer does not meet the states’ prevailing wage, the village would have to foot the difference when hiring someone outside to do a job. And not everyone agrees with it.

Hucker is one of them.

He cast the lone dissenting vote, explaining he was doing so because of his principals. But he urged the village trustees to take it upon themselves to adopt the ordinance.

“This is a ludicrous law to have on the books,” said Hucker. “I think it’s high time (the law) goes away.”

According to the mayor, the state gets its figures for the prevailing wages for workmen, laborers and mechanics that are employed through the village, by averaging the mean salaries paid to union workers performing the same jobs.

Without the ordinance, costs for doing a job would be about 20 percent less, he said.

While the base salary for an electrician hired by the village through an outside contractor would start at approximately $39.15 an hour, when things such as pension and vacation time are added on, the cost to hire an electrician under the prevailing wage ordinance comes out to much more.

“Electricians would be about $63 an hour,” said the mayor, who happens to know something about the issue. He’s president of Hucker Electric in Waukegan.

“Does this affect my business? Yes, but it seriously affects the village budget and we work really hard to balance our budget,” said the mayor.

“As an elected official I voted ‘no’ because I feel the money could be spent on roads, water, police protection, all the while bringing jobs to the county,” said Hucker. “(The prevailing wage) is not a competitive wage. This law is excluding the ability for local people to work. It’s artificially inflating the normal wages non-union people work for.”

Magna said the ordinance has become a burden to municipalities.

“We don’t have availability to contractors accepting less than the prevailing wage,” he said, suggesting the state should pay a portion of the wage. Hucker agreed.

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