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NY Looking For Jobs in All the Wrong Places?


Tuesday, June 21, 2011   

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. - The State of New York shouldn't go looking for jobs in all the wrong places, according to workers' rights and immigration activists. They're wary about plans in Albany to create regional economic development councils, and they're holding a news conference in Central Islip, outside a plant operated by the firm Cintas, charging it with exploiting workers and committing environmental violations.

The organization Long Island Jobs With Justice takes a dim view of the tax breaks Cintas gets from the Islip Industrial Development Agency, and Karina Claudio, of the Brooklyn-based group Make the Road New York, says the company isn't creating good jobs.

"A lot of folks that come into the work force are immigrants and we want folks to know that they have rights and to demand that they get living wages."

They're calling on state leaders to make sure regional economic development councils reportedly in the works are based on solid strategies. Cintas, an Ohio-based company that provides uniforms and other services and supplies to businesses, did not answer calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Charlene Obernauer of Long Island Jobs With Justice calls New York's economic development system "complex and haphazard," although she says not all of the $8 billion a year the state doles out in corporate tax breaks are misguided. She points to a new report that sorts it all out.

"So, there are some really good ideas that have given tax breaks to good companies, but then there's some really bad examples. And what we're trying to do is highlight the good examples and highlight the bad examples, so that we can show that the regional economic development councils can be a positive thing for New York."

An attempt was made in past years to organize workers at Cintas, but it was unsuccessful. Obernauer says the firm has what she calls "shameful" employee relations, with a work force comprised of many immigrants.

"It's easier to exploit immigrants because they're a more vulnerable population. They're less likely to speak out, statistically. So, they've been taking advantage of immigrants and really exploiting them in the people that they hire."

The event this morning is one of several around the state, meant to call attention to wasteful development projects that critics say aren't creating the kinds of good jobs the state needs.

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