Melville, L.I. – Members of Laborers Local 66 are protesting outside the former Newsday building in Melville this week, after learning the new property owners, despite receiving generous tax breaks, will not be using local demolition services on the construction site.
The union believes Hartz Mountain Industries Inc., a New Jersey company, should not be getting more than $16 million in tax incentives and 20 years of tax breaks without guaranteeing demolition work to union workers on Long Island. Doing so, violates the Industrial Development Association’s [IDA] Long Island First policy, according to the union.
The Suffolk County IDA is the lead agency tasked with attracting new investment, expand job creation and spur the area’s local economy.
“The Long Island First policy is that any applicant that signs who is applying for tax benefits signs a commitment to use Long Island-based vendors, companies, and workforce,” Local 66 Political Coordinator Josh Slaughter said. “There is a commitment that you use local companies and that the tax benefits you are receiving are to benefit the local economy.”
Laborers Local 66 is one of two union representatives on the IDA board.
Hartz Mountain Industries has pushed back on the accusations, however, contending their use of other L.I. professional services fulfills their agreement to the policy. But Local 66 doesn’t believe that’s enough.
“It’s proven that when you use local construction workers, every dollar spent there is a $1.50 back to the local economy because they live here, they pay taxes here, they own homes here and they frequent the local restaurants here, so that is money that is going to be money spent here locally,” said Slaughter. “If you hire someone out of the area, you are sending money outside the local economy. The whole point of the policy is to increase local economic activity. If you are not going to use the money to best impact the local economy, then I don’t support providing those benefits.”
With people needing jobs now more than ever due to the coronavirus, enforcing the policy is crucial to job creation, according to Slaughter, who did not vote in favor of Hartz utilizing benefits at an IDA meeting held in October.
“This is a company that has a lot of money and makes billions of dollars yearly,” said Slaughter. “This is the first time they are coming to L.I. and they want to have a footprint here. This is not the only project they have before the IDA. The want to have other projects and they have other properties they purchased recently. They can certainly do this without tax benefits if it’s going to be a situation where they want to bring in workers and companies they have relationships with, that they used before that are not from Long Island.”
Hartz Mountain Industries, a real estate company, reportedly has upwards of 1,000 employees, five subsidiaries, 10 branches and has revenue estimated to be between $100 million to $500 million, according to a market research firm.
“That is $16 million over the next decade or so, that could be going to local school districts, or helping to pay for local services,” said Slaughter. “The taxpayers want to know that when they are going to provide a discount to a company they want a tradeoff in local jobs in return to help residents go to work. We have members that are out of work right now looking for jobs.”
Not ensuring more job creation from outside companies will not stir job creation, according to Slaughter.
“This sets a bad precedent moving forward,” said Slaughter. “The board took them at their word, but the first thing they did was not hire a Long Island company. I have to go base on their actions, so far their actions have shown that they are not going to comply at the moment.”
Slaughter is not sure if the protests will be enough, but he is certain the board of the IDA still has the power to fight for the 600 to 800 post construction job commitment within the next two years.
“If they violate that commitment moving forward, there are repercussions,” said Slaughter. “The board can certainly reconsider those benefits.”