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Landscape Contractors
Strike Out in Claim for Landscape
Workers under Prevailing
Wage Act

Appeals Court
Refuses to Make new Classification

        For the past several years Local 150 Operating Engineers has been a pesky rival to the Laborers Union in the landscape business.  The 150 has been signing contracts with employers that had agreements with the Laborers Union, claiming jurisdiction over workers who operate various types of equipment in the growing industry.  It is obvious to readers, certainly, that more and more suburban residences are subbing out lawn maintenance to these companies. 

        Public sector landscaping contracts are also big business,  and that is the context of the court opinion we turn to in this entry. 

        Under the Prevailing Wage Act in Illinois, the "general prevailing wage" must be paid to "laborers" employed by or on behalf of any public body engaged in public works.  Also under this law, the Illinois Department of Labor may create a new "prevailing wage classification for a particular craft of type of worker."

        A few weeks ago the Second District held that a "landscape worker" could not be such a new classification.  The court affirmed a ruling out of an Illinois trial court that landscape workers are properly categorized as "laborers" under the Act.  Illinois Landscape Contractors Association v. The Department of Labor, et al, __IllApp3d__, Case No. 2-06-0394 (2nd. Dist. March 28, 2007).  The court found that landscape workers possess the same skills, knowledge, and abilities as laborers.

        This is a problem for the landscape industry because the  Local 150 contracts with the association differentiate between laborers and landscape workers for purposes of wage rates (the prevailing wage for laborers on public jobs is $36 per hour, plus fringes). The association petitioned for a hearing and argued that the Act should recognize three new classifications: lead plantsman, plantsman, and landscape installer. The judges were satisfied that there was no factual or legal basis for overturning the IDOL finding that refused a (radical) expansion of the statute's set of categories.