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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 14, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich signs legislation to protect wages for thousands of Illinois workers
New law will give the Illinois Department of Labor increased tools to enforce minimum wage, overtime and wage payment laws

SPRINGFIELD – Building on efforts to help working families and individuals across the state, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation today that will give the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) stronger authority to enforce the minimum wage, overtime and wage payment laws. Senate Bill 2339 will further protect workers by penalizing employers who cheat them of their earned wages, make illegal deductions from their paychecks or refuse to pay wages owed to workers.
 
Under Illinois law, employees must be paid at least semi-monthly, no later than 13 days after the end of the pay period, and final compensation for separated employees must be paid no later than the next regularly scheduled payday. Currently, there are no effective sanctions against employers who withhold or delay payment of wages to workers, even following an investigation and order by the Department of Labor. Recent court decisions have removed the ability of workers to collect penalties in private lawsuits under the Minimum Wage Law and IDOL is no longer able to collect penalties under the Wage Payment and Collection Act against employers who ignore the State’s demand for payment. The new law signed today by Gov. Blagojevich corrects the enforcement inadequacies in the existing laws and restores workers’ rights to sue to collect wages.
 
“Collecting your wages on time means that you can put food on the table, pay the bills and provide for your family,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Workers have a right to be paid on time and in full, but there are employers out there who refuse to pay the minimum wage, earned overtime, or fail to give employees their final paycheck. This legislation will allow the State to help make sure workers recover the wages they’ve earned.”
 
“This law will protect individuals who work hard to earn their money,” said State Senator Miguel del Valle (D-Chicago), the legislation’s chief sponsor. “This will allow them a recourse against employers who attempt to deny them the money they have worked so hard to earn.”
 
“This legislation benefits thousands of Illinois low-wage workers by putting real teeth into the enforcement of wage payment laws. Thanks to Governor Blagojevich’s signing of this legislation, unscrupulous employers in industries such as day labor will now have to pay a 2 percent penalty per month as damages in a private lawsuit filed to recover their wages,” said Tim Bell, Executive Director of the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative.
 
Sponsored by Sen. Miguel del Valle (D-Chicago) and Rep. William Delgado (D-Chicago), SB 2339 strengthens the Minimum Wage Law and the Wage Payment and Collection Act by improving enforcement and penalty provisions.  The new law:
 
·        Gives the Director of Labor authority to subpoena an employer’s books, payroll records and other evidence relative to a matter under investigation or hearing by the Department;
 
·        Streamlines the process for assessing 20 percent penalties for violations of the minimum wage and overtime laws, when the employer’s conduct is proven to be willful, repeated or with reckless disregard for the law;
 
·        Restores the long-standing right of workers to collect penalties of 2 percent per month in a private lawsuit filed to recover their wages;
 
·        Restores penalty provisions of 1% per calendar day, under the Wage Payment and Collection Act, against employers who ignore the Department of Labor's demand to pay workers their earned wages or final compensation.
 
“I would like to thank Gov. Blagojevich for signing this legislation, and for his consistency in helping working families get ahead,” said Rep. Delgado. “Thanks to laws like this, Illinois is a leader when it comes to helping working men and women seek employment with decent wages.”
 
SB 2339 becomes effective immediately.
 
“From raising the minimum wage and granting home childcare workers the right to form a union, to providing additional protections for day laborers, Governor Blagojevich has been a champion for low-wage workers in Illinois.  On behalf of ACORN, I want to thank the Governor for his leadership and determination to improve the lives of workers who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Beatrice Jackson, President of the Illinois chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).
 
“Unlawful employers take advantage of workers by holding back wages, thinking that there will be no consequences. The Department will use these new enforcement powers to aggressively pursue uncooperative, unresponsive and unlawful parties to ensure workers receive the wages they’ve earned.  We remain committed to protect the rights and wages of workers in Illinois,” said Art Ludwig, Director of the Illinois Department of Labor.
 
Since the beginning of his administration, Governor Blagojevich has made protecting workers’ rights one of his top priorities. Through executive or legislative action, the Governor has: 
 
·        Signed legislation strengthening the Prevailing Wage Act by increasing penalties against contractors who unlawfully fail to pay construction workers the wages they have earned. 
 
·        Signed legislation that broadens picketing rights for labor unions and other workers involved in labor disputes with their employers, allowing workers to picket, post temporary signs, park vehicles and set up tents or other temporary shelter areas for the picketers on public rights of way without having to require a permit.
 
·         Signed legislation that dramatically changed the workers compensation system to increase benefits for workers, reduce costs for businesses, and fight fraud.  After the Governor made workers compensation reform a top priority in his 2005 State of the State address, he convened negotiations over several months with business and labor leaders and members of the General Assembly that resulted in the first major overhaul of Illinois’ workers compensation system in nearly 20 years. 
 
·         Raised the minimum wage to $6.50 an hour, benefiting more than 450,000 Illinois workers. The raise made Illinois one of several states in the nation to increase the minimum wage above the federal level of $5.15 an hour, which hasn’t changed since 1997. 
 
·         Signed legislation protecting hundreds of thousands of workers from being stripped of their right to overtime pay by new federal regulations. 
 
·         Signed legislation to protect workers from employer indoctrination and confinement, making Illinois only the third state in the nation to enact card check recognition of public employees. The law provides that if 50 percent or more of workers sign union authorization cards, union recognition is automatic.
 
·         Signed legislation to help ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work.  Under the law, if a man and a woman do the same job they must be paid the same.
 
·         Signed legislation to protect U.S. jobs by requiring companies bidding for state business to certify whether the terms of the contract will be performed in the United States, and encouraging state agencies to buy products that are manufactured in the United States. 
 
·         Expanded rights of Illinois workers to join a union. This directly benefited 50,000 home childcare workers, 20,000 personal care assistants and thousands of graduate students and court reporters.
 
·         Signed legislation to improve the structure and funding of the Unemployment Trust Fund.
 
·         Signed legislation that requires every contractor providing equipment, materials or supplies to the State of Illinois to specify that no foreign-made equipment, materials or supplies be produced by children under the age of 12.  Provides for penalties for a contractor who knowingly furnishes goods to the State produced by foreign child labor.
 
  • Signed legislation to protect over 300,000 day and temporary laborers, making Illinois one of the most aggressive states - a model in the nation - when it comes to safeguarding day laborers from injustices at the hands of unlawful agencies.


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