Union workers picket at Rock Tenn plant amidst claims of undocumented workers taking local jobs
A number of union construction workers picketed in front of the Rock Tenn plant at the corner of Milton and Lamont Avenue in Solvay on Friday morning.
They called it an "informational picket", saying undocumented workers were brought in by a contractor (Universal Limited out of Alabama) to work on a project involving pipe insulation at the Rock Tenn plant, which has a PILOT agreement with the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency. These workers feel that PILOT agreement should obligate Rock Tenn to have a local commitment to local labor.
"We just want people to know their tax dollars are helping to fund this, and they're using not only out of state workers, but also undocumented workers," Bob Reap, Local 30 Business Manager, says.
Rock Tenn responded, saying that they "can confirm that these workers were not working on equipment that was part of the OCIDA project." OCIDA says they do have a PILOT agreement with Rock Tenn, and that they require new projects to use local labor unless the contractor uses a waiver. In this case OCIDA would not confirm whether or not this project was under that jurisdiction, but did say the board would determine the facts of the this case and decide if anything was violated.
Reap says on last Friday, at least 10 of those workers were arrested by Solvay Police and Border Patrol for not having proper paperwork in the United States.
Rock Tenn said they were disappointed to learn that there may have been some issues with the documentation of the workers, but that they also require their contractors to comply with federal and state laws.
The workers though say that by bringing in workers from out of the area, not only the union contractors, but all of the contractors in the area are affected.
"It creates an uneven playing field," Reap says. "When you have an uneven playing field...someone using the undocumented workers, paying them less money...it's unfair to the bidding process, so our contractors don't even have a chance at getting a job and using local people and putting money back into the local economy."
Reap says they plan on picketing more in the coming weeks.