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  • Standing up for local jobs - Tax incentives should support local hire
    Posted On: Jul 07, 2020

    NORMAL July 6 — Union members protesting at Uptown Circle on Monday called for the town's tax incentive packages to include a requirement to hire local workers when possible. 

    Specifically, they were critical of the town's agreement with Rivian. Mike Raikes, business manager with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 197, said the electric vehicle manufacturer has hired out-of-state and foreign workers after promising to create jobs locally. 

    Rivian spokesman Zach Dietmeier said more than 80% of on-site construction at its Normal location is done by union workers. 

    “Local governments, along with the town of Normal, have been awarding tax incentives for projects for business and in these agreements there haven’t been any provisions for local construction workers to be prioritized,” Raikes said.  

    The rally was held prior to the Normal Town Council meeting, which began after the protest and was live streamed through the town's YouTube page. Protesters marched around Uptown Circle with signs calling for people to "keep tax dollars local" and to "build with local labor."

    The union wants both Normal and Bloomington to include agreements requiring companies to hire local workers with adequate wages and benefits when property tax abatement packages are awarded. 

    Dietmeier said the company had 579 contracted construction workers on site, 516 of whom were union workers, during the week of June 22. 

    "Rivian's general contractors are directed to utilize local trades as often as possible within time and cost constraints," he said. 

    The tax abatement is in accordance with the town's 2016 economic incentive agreement with Rivian and affects an estimated $106,074 in property tax revenue for fiscal year 2020-21. The revenue represents $74,559 from the town's general fund and $31,515 from Normal Public Library.

    Under the agreement, Rivian is to meet certain benchmarks, including investing at least $22 million in project expenses and employing 75 full-time employees with an average weekly salary equal or greater than the average weekly salary in McLean County, as measured by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    “We just want to make sure that the local labor is used where they’re getting paid and have adequate benefits to be able to retire to go to the doctor if their sick,” Raikes said.

    Normal City Manager Pam Reece said the town would be open to including project labor agreements, which have been used on past projects such as the construction of Uptown Station. The town had previously begun working on creating a standard tax incentive package that Normal, Bloomington and McLean County could buy into.

    The Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council took over drafting that package for the Bloomington-Normal Enterprise Zone, she said.

    The EDC is looking into providing an incentive for companies to use local labor, but would not make it a requirement, said Patrick Hoban, CEO of the council.

    "We want to include that because the more a company utilizes our local resources, our local talents, the school districts, the universities, the more return we're going to see," he said.

    There are no other enterprise zones that have a requirement for local labor utilization plans, he said.

    The package could be brought forth within the next few months and would need approval from partnering taxing bodies, including McLean County, Bloomington, Normal, Ford County and Gibson City.

    by Sierra Henry, Bloomington Pantagraph July 6, 2020

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