Virtuoso Blasts Norampac Over Illegal Workforce
By Frank Parlato
Niagara County Legislature Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso isn't amused by Norampac, the Niagara County IDA-backed half-billion-dollar containerboard plant being operated by a French Canadian firm, and the company's decision to hire a subcontractor using illegal immigrant labor.
In fact, the bold minority leader has gone so far as to announce plans to submit a harshly-worded resolution that could have been written by Arizona's "Sheriff Joe" Arpaio—the tough-talking face of the anti-illegal immigration movement in America.
Virtuoso's draft resolution, which he provided to us Monday, has the title, "Stop Illegal Aliens from Working on IDA Projects."
"It has been reported (by the Niagara Falls Reporter) that seven illegal aliens from Guatemala were arrested by [the Department of] Homeland Security working on an IDA and New York state-subsidized project right here in Niagara Falls," Virtuoso said. "The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency's mission is to…foster job opportunities, general prosperity and economic welfare for the residents of Niagara County. Not Guatemala."
The resolution punches hard, urging the IDA and the state government to place language in IDA and state loan and incentive packages, as well as the county's popular low-cost power incentives, that would force companies that "employ any illegal aliens or undocumented workers while building, remodeling, or manufacturing" to "forfeit all benefits and subsidies."
A second resolution also seeks to force the county legislature to ask the IDA to adopt "local hire policy" similar, it says, to that used by Monroe County's IDA.
The latter point may be contentious, as it has long been seen as a backdoor to various union-driven demands that might increase labor costs. Backed by far-left union front groups like ALIGN, the New York City-based Alliance for a Greater New York, local hire policies are anathema to some of the more pro-business members of the Niagara County IDA's Board of Directors.
"But locals pay for the tax incentives," co-sponsor Jason Zona said of the Virtuoso pair of bills and the argument against it.
"If Republicans want to continue to support Big Business and give them tax incentives, paid by locals, without requiring them to hire locals, then let them oppose it and show their colors," Zona said.
A source close to the county GOP tells us, "Look, the Republicans have never been the pro-illegal alien party, and they're not going to start now. My guess is they will ask Virtuoso to soften some of the harshest language in this resolution, but it's likely to pass—since no one is going to fall on his sword in an election year so a bunch of [French speakers] from Canada can hire a bunch of illegal Mexicans, or Guatemalans, or whatever."
Republican county lawmakers however have never been particularly keen about telling the IDA how to run its affairs since recapturing control of the county government in 2003.
When Republicans took back power from the Democrats 10 years ago, one of the big issues was the so-called mess the Democrats had made of the IDA in just two short years.
Several Republican sources told the Reporter that they would be unlikely to block Virtuoso's illegal alien resolution, since they are concerned by the negative press the Norampac raid has had on the region.
"Despite the efforts by certain parties to portray us as watching out for Big Business, the truth is we aren't amused here either," one source said.
"Norampac was supposed to be a big economic development success story, and so far all they've managed to do is win our region a black eye."
Virtuoso said that "the project was heavily subsidized by New York state and received over $142 million in government incentives and $60 million in brownfield credits" so it's not unreasonable to expect that seven illegal aliens not slip through the cracks.
Local #91 laborers union business manager Dick Palladino said there are far more than seven and that Norampac carefully screens every one who enters the construction site.
"It is impossible that they did not know they have illegal workers there," said Palladino. "And I tell you that there are a lot more than seven who worked there. That is all they caught so far."
The Reporter is currently investigating which contractors are hiring illegal workers and it appears that in addition to Triad, named in last week's story, another company Tower, working on the site is also following in Triad's footsteps.
In fact there are so many Spanish speaking workers from out of town and maybe out of the country that the subcontractors have Spanish interpreters to tell the workers what to do.
Odd since all of the $142 million in incentives came from New York and Niagara County taxpayers and not a dime in foreign aid came from Guatemala to complete this Norampac project.
As Virtuoso's resolution notes, "the Niagara County Legislature is in support of job creation and retention and economic opportunities. They have worked hard to foster that image for a decade now, and they aren't about to let a bunch of Canadians screw that up for them."
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
JUN 11, 2013