Just as he did with SolarCity, Cuomo is bringing his Albany corruption machine back to Western New York FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 9, 2018
Contact: Brian Sampson – (585)-967-2133BUFFALO, NY – Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC), Empire State Chapter President Brian Sampson blasted Governor Cuomo appointee Howard Zemsky and his team at Empire State Development Corp (ESDC). for pressuring Athenex leadership to place a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) on the construction of their new plant in Dunkirk. The organization, ABC, fights the use of PLA’s calling them “a conscious violation of competitive bidding laws in order to give back to Cuomo supporters.” New York State has ramped up its use of PLA’s that freeze out local, non-union workers.“As we sit patiently and wait for the verdict in the on-going corruption cases in New York, we can’t ignore the next trial to come later this summer. That trial surrounds the project at Riverbend and utilized a similar blueprint for what we’re seeing related to the Athenex project”, said Brian Sampson. “That trial will bring a blackeye to Western New York and demonstrate why Project Labor Agreements are nothing more than a political tool designed to hurt contractors and their workers who choose not to join a union. And as we saw with the SolarCity project, the PLA is a way for Governor Cuomo to give back to his campaign donors.”The reference to the upcoming trial reflects the bid-rigging charges brought by former United States Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharhara against executives at LPCiminelli for the SolarCity project at Riverbend. That project, which was fraught with issues and continues to face challenges, was built under some of the most discriminatory terms ever found in a PLA.
In private conversations, unnamed officials at Athenex told Associated Builders & Contractors that the company has been coerced by those close to Cuomo to utilize a PLA or jeopardize the funding. The Empire Chapter has been actively engaged on the Athenex project since it was first announced as part of the Governor’s Buffalo Billion commitment. They’ve held meetings with elected officials in the area to oppose the PLA, they’ve written letters to the CEO of Athenex about how PLA’s exclude local workers, and have engaged the media to illustrate the negative impact of the PLA. And based on the conversations, Associated Builders & Contractors sent a FOIL request to Empire State Development and the Executive Chamber seeking an unredacted copy of any PLA study as well as any and all correspondence related to Athenex.
A project labor agreement (PLA) is a requirement that a contractor hire workers through a union labor hall and adhere to union work rules. In the Buffalo area, over 70% of the construction workforce in the area does not belong to a union hall. The PLA would then eliminate them from working. Further, some studies have shown PLAs drive up costs as much as 30%.
This story is not unfamiliar for Sampson or the Chapter’s membership. They’re currently engaged in an Article 78 lawsuit over the airport expansion project in Plattsburgh, Clinton County. It’s been widely reported, and shared on record, that County officials and Legislators were contacted by people close to Governor Cuomo and advised they had to accept the PLA study or lose current and future funding. They decided to adopt the flawed PLA study because of alleged labor savings in order to get their funding. And, as expected, that project is wildly over budget even though the PLA was projected to save over $3 million dollars.
The Governor, on multiple occasions, he has publicly stated his undying support for organized labor and will “do everything he can” to make sure New York builds everything union. He’s been equally clear that competitive bidding laws will not stand in his way as he gives taxpayer-funded project after taxpayer-funded project to his campaign donors.
“The bottom line for us is that Athenex is growing and will continue to be a great community partner in Buffalo and soon in Dunkirk. They’ve already agreed to build the project using prevailing wages which is more than generous. We support the project and the economic impact it will have on the community. But Athenex leadership needs to be allowed to build this project how they choose and without any undue influence from the Governor or his people. Buffalo and Western New York are on the rebound. They don’t need more corruption to bring blight to their great story.”