Unions want in on Beech-Nut project

Montgomery County will not tell companies what contractors to hire for building projects like the mu

Montgomery County will not tell companies what contractors to hire for building projects like the multimillion-dollar Beech-Nut baby food factory planned for the Florida Business Park.

Labor union representatives voiced concern this week that there has been no project labor agreement with leaders at the Switzerland-based Hero Corp., which owns Beech-Nut and plans to build a $124 million plant south of Amsterdam.

The unions argue that since public money is involved in supporting the project, there should be some stipulations made similar to those required for public works projects, such as paying prevailing wage.

Montgomery County Economic Development Director Ken Rose on Wednesday said there is no requirement by law nor any intention to tell companies whom they can hire for construction.

“We’re not going to dictate to any company who they can use for contractors,” Rose said.

Jeff Stark, Capital District Area Labor Federation vice president, on Wednesday said several unions are concerned that the Beech-Nut construction project won’t take advantage of the expertise available through the use of labor unions that offer training, apprenticeship programs and require a pay scale for their members.

State and local officials are offering the Hero Group approximately $106.5 million in incentives to keep Beech-Nut in Montgomery County.

The incentives include about $15.5 million from Empire State Development Corp., another $10 million from other state agencies and $80.9 million in tax breaks through the local Empire Zone program, the county Industrial Development Agency payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement and low-interest loans, according to a breakdown provided by Rose.

“They’re asking the taxpayers of Montgomery County to foot an $80 million subsidy. As a taxpayer, I want to see local workers benefit,” Stark said.

None of the incentives offered for the Beech-Nut project come with a requirement that any particular contractor be hired for construction, Rose said.

“The company has every right to hire any contractor that they feel will be able to do the job at the level of quality they feel is appropriate and in the most timely and cost effective manner to meet their schedule,” Rose said.

The unions contend that in the absence of a project labor agreement, companies could hire out-of-state and undocumented workers without assurances the workers are properly trained and paid, Stark said.

Rose said there are numerous non-union contractors that deserve the opportunity to get involved in the work.

Officials said a similar situation arose years ago during the construction of the Target Distribution Facility just west of the site planned for Beech-Nut.

Union members picketed outside that construction project, Stark said.

“They need to come down to the Building Trades, sit down with us and make an agreement that works for every taxpayer … or they shouldn’t get a dime,” Stark said.

Stark said the unions are not opposed to the construction of a new Beech-Nut plant.

“We want that development, we want those jobs. The only thing we’re saying is we want those jobs to be good paying jobs with benefits and we want to make sure that the local workers in Montgomery County get a chance to work on it,” Stark said.

Stark said union representatives intend to contact legislators and others in hopes of obtaining some concessions and promises tied to the project’s funding.

“This is a very high density labor movement area. We’re going to go out and we’re going to petition those people. We’re going to lobby those people and we’re going to ask for help,” Stark said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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