Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - Up to 14 illegal immigrants were found to be working on an expansion project at a business in Solvay according to union representatives.
Union workers are now picketing outside RockTenn, and said the packaging production company could have been more careful by hiring local contractors.
“They make an unfair playing field for the contractor so our local contractors, whether they be union or non union, really can't compete,” said Bob Reap with the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers.
Union workers called this an informational picket.
“We would hope that would go to local labor and local contractors,” Reap said.
Instead, union representatives say, the project's design firm - ESI Tennessee out of Georgia - contracted Universal Limited out of Alabama to do the work at Rock-Tenn.
Local money going to outside work is one issue to union representatives like Bill Reap, but in addition he says more than half of the workers they brought were illegal immigrants.
“The Workers Comp, the NY State Unemployment, are they paying all the right things they're supposed to pay? And it's a big concern because it does create the unfair playing field for the contractors, which in turn takes jobs away from our local labor,” Reap said.
He believes if the companies are not held accountable, there is nothing to stop them from hiring illegal immigrants again.
“The company needs to face some kind of repercussions for this. It's the only way to get it to stop,” Reap said.
The company sent the following statement:
"At RockTenn, we have a robust program to ensure that the company is in compliance with all legal requirements when hiring RockTenn employees. We also require all of our contractors to fully comply with all federal and state laws on all work performed. We were very disappointed to learn that may not have been the case in this instance as we were not aware that there may have been issues with the documentation of some of the workers.
To clarify, the workers in question are not RockTenn employees – they were hired by a subcontractor.
There have been some questions about the OCIDA pilot and tax payers funds. We can confirm that these workers were not working on equipment that was part of the OCIDA project. Regardless of the work activity, RockTenn will not tolerate contractors and subcontractors that do not comply with the law.
We are evaluating the situation to fully understand the facts and to determine any necessary corrective action.
We are proud to be part of the Solvay and New York Communities. In New York, RockTenn has five facilities with an employee base of approximately 632. In 2012, our New York total payroll was approximately $40.87 million. We paid approximately $2.27 million in property taxes. RockTenn consumed $43.41 million worth of energy in New York and moved 2.9 million tons of freight into, within and out of New York."
Union representatives are bringing up a question of county tax breaks for this company, but according to Rock-Tenn and the Onondaga County Industrial Agency, these two projects are not related.