For immediate release
September 7, 2004
Ann Marie Taliercio
315-426-0373 or 315-415-2735
Workers, environmentalists blast Cintas tax breaks, demand study of subsidy plan instead of rubber-stamp vote Thursday
Baldwinsville, N.Y., Tuesday, Sept. 7-Laundry workers, environmentalists, union leaders, economic development experts and supporters testified at a public hearing this morning against awarding over $600,000 in tax breaks to Cincinnati-based Cintas Corp. to build an industrial laundry here. But the members of the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency board won’t hear directly about the economic and environmental dangers the opponents raised – because none of them were there.
The IDA board is scheduled vote Thursday, Sept. 9 on the plan, and opponents urged that, since they couldn’t be at the hearing today, the board should commission a study of the issues they had raised. “We pointed to Cintas’ record of breaking the law and discharging toxic waste,” said Ann Marie Taliercio, who heads the 500-member Syracuse hotel workers union, Local 150 of UNITE HERE. “We demonstrated that it would be almost impossible for Cintas to create the jobs they’re promising without taking good jobs away from workers in local businesses. And we pointed to statements in their application materials that seem to be inaccurate. The IDA board should not rubber stamp this plan on Thursday. The responsible thing to do is order a study of the issues we have raised.” Representatives of the Sierra Club and the Citizens Campaign for the Environment also testified against the subsidy plan.
UNITE HERE’s analysis of the application documents identified several statements that require explanation, including contradictory statements on whether the deal will subsidize the abandonment of Cintas’ existing DeWitt plant, whether it will increase truck traffic and who will handle the toxic sludge generated by the plant.
Other public agencies have found reason to closely scrutinize Cintas’s statements, including the State of New York. The state recently barred the company, the country’s largest industrial launderer, from participation in the state’s Empire Zone program in Suffolk County. The Empire Zone debarment came after labor leaders and others raised concerns that the company didn’t meet the program’s criteria for complying with the environmental and worker protection laws. Other public entities that have recently terminated deals with Cintas include Madison, Wisc., and the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water.
“Cintas doesn’t give its workers a real pension like we have,” pointed out Charlotte Rowe, a 42-year veteran of the local Coyne laundry. “They don’t provide affordable health care. Giving them some of my tax dollars gives them an unfair advantage.” She concluded, “I wish someone from the IDA board was actually here to look at me when I ask them not to use my taxes that way.”
UNITE HERE is the newly merged union of hospitality, gaming, apparel, textile and laundry workers. The new union represents nearly half a million workers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.