Union activists and Providence residents plan to protest the Renaissance Hotel in Providence at 4:45 today because of a $9 million tax break they say the business gets from the city. The protesters plan to present hotel management with an over-sized gag check for $9 million they want them to sign over to city residents.
Here’s the press release from Andrew Tillett-Saks, an organizer with Unite Here Local 217 for a detailed account of why people are taking to the streets:
Dozens of Providence residents and area workers will hold a demonstration on Wednesday demanding that corporate welfare immediately end for the luxury Renaissance Hotel. Several organizations will participate in delivering an oversized ‘check’ to Renaissance Hotel Management to symbolize the nine millions dollar tax exemption the hotel receives from the City of Providence, as well as holding a demonstration outside of the hotel to protest the tax break for the controversial employer. The Hotel is scheduled to receive an additional tax savings of approximately eight to ten million dollars through an agreement with the City, extracting benefits that go far beyond its original purpose. The attendees believe that Providence will be better off without corporate handouts going to failed projects like 38 Studios or successful luxury hotels, and specifically decried the tax exemption for the wealthy Procaccianti Group which has recently come under scrutiny for its treatment of its workers at the hotel.
The Providence City Council introduced an ordinance to review the Renaissance Hotel’s tax break in the month of July. A tense standoff has ensued between The Procaccianti Group, who stand to lose millions if the tax exemption is repealed, and many Providence residents who feel the exemption is unfair and bad for the city.
Despite the December 2012 change in ownership to The Procaccianti Group, the corporate tax breaks have stayed in place. “Why is my employer, a multi-million dollar hotel company who’s paying lower taxes than a Providence small business, paying me such low wages?” questioned one Renaissance Hotel employee Santa Brito.
“This is the City’s version of the 38 Studios fiasco,” said Juan Goris, a Providence resident in attendance at the demonstration. “Hard-working tax-payers keep bearing the burden while the rich give nothing back.”
The tax breaks continue to be provided at a time when the RI unemployment rate is still one of the highest rates in the country. Meanwhile, many Providence residents who have found work, are still struggling to make ends meet. According to the RI Kids Count 2012, over 35% of the children in Providence are part of families living below the federal poverty line.
Meanwhile, Providence for several consecutive years has been struggling to balance its budget – threatening the quality of public education, and city services like parks and policing. Most recently, the City felt forced to raise homeowner taxes approximately 6% citywide. As a result, homeowners in some of Providence’s poorest neighborhoods will see their yearly property tax bill rise hundreds of dollars. Previously, the City successfully negotiated increased payments in leiu of taxes (PILOT) with several of the City’s tax exempt institutions, like Brown University and Providence College. It also renegotiated Agreements with City workers for further savings.
Originally, the Tax Stabilization Agreement was approved in 2003 as a way to redevelop a blighted area in the heart of the capital city, an unfinished, size adjective, Masonic Temple that had been abandoned since 1929. At the time, the project was praised by Mayor Cicilline and City Council members. During the original passage, one council member explained the purpose of the Agreement: “This is about providing good jobs for our residents as we continue to spur new economic development activity in Providence.”
Rhode Island Jobs with Justice, a coalition of labor unions and community groups, will be sponsoring the demonstration.
The Cranston City Council recently stopped The Procaccianti Group’s proposed Phenix Lodge luxury apartment complex. One of the Council’s concerns was whether or not the project would actually generate revenue for the City assured by The Procaccianti Group.