Hotel Keys
by Ed Griffin-Nolan - Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
Labor agreements are in the unions’ plans for the proposed Destiny inn

Destiny USA announced plans for a hotel in the parking lot just south of its expanded shopping center, and County Executive Joanie Mahoney and Mayor Stephanie Miner caucused to consider what, if any, taxpayer support they might offer to the venture.

Meanwhile, rival hotel owners and the head of the labor union representing hotel workers had their own thoughts on the matter.

Tony Mangano, whose family runs three hotels just north of the city (Super 8, Hampton Inn and Ramada Inn) says he is watching the development carefully. “As long as everyone is on a level playing field,” says Mangano, he isn’t opposed to the projected 252-room hotel. “If they just get the typical sales tax break on building materials, I’m not opposed to that.”

Mangano’s hotels sit on farmland bought by his grandfather. They were built in the years before tax concessions like PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreements became common. “We got a sales tax break when we built a hotel in Watertown,” he says, “but property tax breaks, we haven’t gotten that, not in 30 years.”

Mangano says that his hotels benefit some from overnight guests who come to shop at Destiny and spend the night. This is the market the Destiny hotel seeks to capture.

“They bring more guests to Syracuse. I’m not living on it,” he says of the mall traffic, “but it’s been a bit of a help.”

He won’t reveal his occupancy rate. “I wish it were higher. Every hotel will say the same thing.

“We welcome competition,” he says. “It depends on what’s in the PILOT. I pay real estate taxes. I don’t get a break on it. It goes to pay for police, fire protection, the infrastructure and services that we use. I want to get the same from them.”

Ann Marie Taliercio heads UNITEHERE Local 150, the labor union representing local hotel workers. She says that her union plans to pursue with the hotel developer a labor peace agreement (LPA, which is not the same as another agreement labeled with an acronym: a PLA, or project labor agreement).

“A {project labor agreement} levels the playing field so we can pursue quality jobs for our community,” she says.

Construction projects supported with tax dollars frequently include a project labor agreement between the builder and the construction trades unions. Securing an LPA, says Taliercio, would create a relationship between the union and the employer once the hotel is built.

“We had a labor peace agreement the last time they were talking about a Destiny hotel,” says Taliercio, who also heads the Area Labor Federation, the local affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

That hotel project, a colossus with more than 1,300 rooms proposed in 2007, never got off the drawing board. An earlier hotel plan, in 2002, resulted in an elaborate groundbreaking ceremony that brought then-Gov. George Pataki to town, but no hotel.

LPAs, Taliercio says, “set the rules as to how the playing field will be leveled. The employer agrees not to overtly fight the union, and the union agrees not to do anything that will hurt the business. It gives an opportunity to calmly, civilly talk to the people that get hired about joining a union.”

Both Taliercio and Mangano are founding members, along with Destiny USA, of Save81.org, the coalition formed last year to oppose a boulevard to replace the north-south interstate highway running through the city.

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