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By Katie Nowak

June 21, 2011

EAST GREENBUSH — Holding signs bearing slogans including “Where’s the jobs plan?” and “Local jobs for local people,” a group of labor, community and faith leaders gathered near the site of the under-construction FedEx processing plant on Route 4 Tuesday to express their frustration with the project’s lack of local job creation, and the lack of legislative action to address the state’s continuing unemployment problem.

Frank Natalie, vice president of the Capital District Area Labor Federation and business agent of the UA Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 7, said the taxpayer-subsidized FedEd project is receiving $4 million in tax exemptions, while creating four full-time and 133 part-time jobs, most of which will be filled by shifting employees from facilities in Guilderland and Colonie. Construction jobs are also likely to go to non-New Yorkers, Natalie said, since the contractors are also from out-of-state.

The root of the problem, Natalie said, is that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to deal with the rampant unemployment that continues to plague the state. Raising a magnifying glass to illustrate his point, Natalie said he and other labor leaders have been looking for a plan from Cuomo, but so far have been left unsatisfied.

“Even as unemployment remains stubbornly high and communities continue to struggle, the governor and legislature have failed to address the issue of good local job creation,” Natalie said.

Unemployed sheetmetal worker Susan Clark, a Rensselaer County resident, also expressed her frustration with the FedEx project. Recently laid off from a job working on the GlobalFoundries plant in Malta, Clark said she would love to get a job working at the FedEx site, but has been denied such an opportunity.

“Every day, I pass near this publicly subsidized project, which is just six miles from my house,” Clark said. “I can’t believe the taxpayers are subsidizing projects that don’t even create good jobs for local people.”

Natalie and Prairie Wells, political director for Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 2, also said they’d like to see local Industrial Development Agencies like Rensselaer County’s become more accountable and have clearer reporting, especially when doling out tax exemptions to corporations. Natalie added he’d like to know more details about Cuomo’s long-gestating, still-unannounced economic development councils, and how they will change the current employment crisis.

Rev. Brooke Newell, of the Adirondack Labor-Religion Coalition, added that it often takes sensational stories like that of Rep. Anthony Weiner’s now-infamous Twitter picture scandal to get lawmakers talking about ethics, but issues like the fair handling of taxpayer dollars don’t often enter into that conversation. It’s time for that to change, Newell said.

“(Lawmakers) prioritize protecting the wealth of corporations, even when the alleged benefits of subsidized development fail to reach our communities,” she said. “It’s time that our leaders reprioritize, recommit themselves to the majority of New Yorkers who are struggling every day.”

To read the full article, visit the Troy Record.