Tefere Gebre of the OC Labor Federation

Tefere Gebre of the OC Labor Federation

Apparently, something doesn’t even have to be true to become the subject of media coverage.

Today, the Voice of OC published a story headlined:

“Honda Center Layoffs Could Mean Tax Credits for Company.”

What follows is an entire article claiming that when Anaheim Arena Management hires some 500 food-and-beverage workers as part of bringing that service in-house, it could, maybe, possibly apply for Enterprise Zone tax credits. The VOC even quotes an outraged Ada Briseno, vice-honcho of UNITE-HERE Local 11 (which represents the Aramark workers currently providing food-and-beverage service at The Honda Center):

The workers’ union on Wednesday called the move “absolutely shameful.”

“Make no mistake, this is an attempt by Anaheim Arena Management to undercut workers’ rights, reduce wages and cut benefits,” said Ada Briseno, secretary-treasurer of Unite Here Local 11. “And because the Honda Center is in an enterprise zone, they will receive millions in tax breaks for firing the workers and hiring replacements. It is corporate welfare at its worst, and taxpayers will foot the bill.”

Here’s the problem: what Ms. Briseno’s is saying is totally, completely false. Anaheim Arena Management has never had any intention of applying for Enterprise Zone tax credits and have issued a statement to that effect:

Anaheim Arena Management Will Not Apply for Enterprise Zone Credits

ANAHEIM, Calif. (May 16, 2013) – The Chairman of Anaheim Arena Management, Michael Schulman, released the following statement today, clarifying that the company will not seek tax credits under the State of California’s Enterprise Zone program and hopes and expects many employees working for the expiring food service contractor at Honda Center will apply for positions with the in-house food service operations.

“To make the record perfectly clear, our decision to take food service in-house was based solely on our relentless pursuit of giving our customers the very best entertainment experience possible. It had nothing to do with California Enterprise Zone tax credits, which we never had any intention of utilizing.”

Anaheim Arena Management announced in February that it would not renew its existing food service/concessions contract with Aramark Corporation when it expires on June 30, and instead take those operations in-house. To service the existing contract, Aramark employed approximately 20 full time and 500 part-time/seasonal workers.

Anaheim Arena Management (AAM) has started the process of hiring employees to staff operations starting July 1, 2013. To date, AAM has received nearly 2,000 applications for the positions.

Why did Ms. Briseno make such a false claim? She didn’t say “They could apply” or “I think they may be eligible to apply.” She declared, on the basis of no evidence, that The Honda Center would harvest “millions in tax breaks for firing workers and firing replacements.”

She’s not alone in making this phony claim. At Tuesday, Anaheim City Council meeting, OC Labor Federation Executive Director Tefere Gebre also leveled this baseless accusation (go to the 55 minute mark):

They’re being told your’e gonna get fired so the Honda Center management can make $50 million additional dollars for firing them and re-hiring them at a lower wage.

That is because you have a sign outside, because of this thing called Enterprise Zones. If the current employers…they get the Enterprise Zone credit Now, for firing them and re-hiring, the management at Honda Center will get $37,400 for everyone of these employees.

Again, too bad for Mr. Gebre that what he said isn’t true. Not only is the Honda Center NOT doing what Gebre claims, but the EZ law expressly prohibits employers from doing what Gebre was denouncing.

And beside being illegal, the whole firing-rehiring shell game doesn’t even make good business sense. It requires one to believe a company is going to risk a bunch if unlawful termination lawsuits and absorb the expense of hiring and training at least a number of new employees – all to claim a tax credit. Outside of union HQ and a college faculty lounge (or a newsroom), where does that even sound plausible?

As for the Voice of OC: what’s up with running a story about something that isn’t true? Sure, the story has a couple of CYA elements: the escape-hatch word “could” in the headline and “the Anaheim Arena Management didn’t return a call seeking comment” disclaimer (how long did the reporter wait for a call-back before clicking the “publish” button?). If the story was about the Honda Center claiming tax credits, wouldn’t you sart with finding out if they were planing to claim a tax credit?

Individuals or organizations “could” do lots of things. Does the mere possibility an excuse for a news organization to give credence to baseless union bluster?

A final comment: I’m not waiting for any of those in the local blogosphere who are fond of shouting “liar” at their political opponents (regardless of whether they’re guilty of that offense) to call out their allies for making untrue statements.