The Illinois Dept. of Labor has ordered a bulk storage building contractor to pay nearly $500,000 in back pay to workers and penalties for failing to meet state-certified prevailing wage and benefit rates.

The department recently reached a settlement with Bulk Storage Inc., Beecher, Ill., which specializes in building structures for storage of salt, sand, fertilizer and other materials. The agency alleged the firm paid below prevailing wage on several publicly-funded projects, including a dome storage facility for the City of West Chicago, a salt barn for Dundee Town Road District and a public works building for Elk Grove Village. 

According to the settlement document, the state alleged that the contractor failed to required pay wages and/or benefits totaling $717,549, with proposed penalties of $143,510. Those were negotiated to $483,828 in back pay to employees plus $85,000 in penalties to the labor department.

Phil Davidson, communications director for the Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council, says the union initiated the investigation into the company’s practices after wondering why its certified payroll included a column described as “other.”

The company was “deducting massive amounts from workers’ paychecks. We had a one-job agreement with Bulk Storage and were able to use independent auditors to find out what ‘other’ meant,” he said. 

The "other" category related to charging employees for use of company tools, equipment and vehicles, according to the union. “Obviously, that’s illegal,” Davidson said. “The ‘other’ money went right back to the company. On paper, it looked like [the firm was] paying prevailing wages. But when we dug deeper, we found out [it was] ripping off employees.”

The state Prevailing Wage Act requires contractors and subcontractors to pay laborers, workers and mechanics employed on public works construction projects no less than the general prevailing rate of wages for work of a similar character in the county where work is performed. 

The settlement calls for Bulk Storage to make a 20% down payment on the settement cost and pay the balance in 14 quarterly payments starting in October and ending in January 2026.

The agreement also states that it does not constitute an admission of liability or wrongdoing on the part of the contractor. 

A representative of Bulk Storage declined to comment on the settlement.