Local Groups Launch Effort to 'Confront Corporate Power'

February 18, 2012 Updated Feb 18, 2012 at 10:30 PM EDT

By WKBW News

February 18, 2012 Updated Feb 18, 2012 at 10:30 PM EDT

BUFFALO, N.Y. ( release ) - Dozens of grassroots leaders from local community groups, congregations, and unions gathered Saturday morning to launch a collective effort to work on corporate accountability campaigns throughout 2012.

Leaders were trained on issues of corporate tax loopholes and tax subsidies and honed their skills to engage legislators, the public, and the press. This new effort is focused on ongoing leadership development and mobilization in order to hold elected officials accountable, win adequate funding for the programs that matter most to working Western New Yorkers and communities in need, while ensuring that tax subsidies are used to create the good jobs all New Yorkers need.

Following the training, participants led a rally to share reasons why they committed to join with networks across the state to confront corporate power and work to close corporate tax loopholes and fix broken tax subsidy programs like Industrial Development Agencies throughout the legislative session and the 2012 elections.

"Big corporations are using tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share in taxes, which leads to budget cuts and job layoffs because there is less tax revenue for essential public services" said Jeffrey Anderson, a member of 1199 SEIU (Service Employees International Union) . "I am an unemployed health care worker, and I lost my job because the health care facility where I worked was forced to close due to a lack of funding, because corporations are not paying what they should be. This year corporations will receive over $1 billion in tax refunds from New York State, despite record profits. The middle class has to make up for this loss of tax revenue, and our communities get cheated out of much needed funding."

"Corporations have gamed our economic development system," said Agnes Mabins with the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) Local 815. "Businesses get big tax breaks while failing to create the good jobs they promise. Each year in New York State, we lose another $8 billion dollars through Industrial Development Agencies and various subsidy programs. Locally, the Amherst IDA gave Northtown Automotive a $536,000 tax break to move its Lexus dealership across the street on Sheridan Drive. This tax break increases the tax burden on all Erie County residents."

"It is time to do right by hard working families," said Bill Roberts, a member of Nativity Church in Amherst. "Closing corporate tax loopholes and reining-in subsidy spending would provide more than $9 billion to invest in the things our communities really need - good jobs, good schools, quality health care, well-funded transit, and good public services."

The training and rally included grassroots leaders and members of AFSCME, 1199 SEIU, The Coalition for Economic Justice, Citizen Action, The Civil Service Employees Association, The Communication Workers of America, Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope, People United for Sustainable Housing, VOICE Buffalo, The WNY Area Labor Federation.