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Sep
2016
7

Under Armour CEO Still Defiant; Baltimore Labor, Church Groups Stand Up for Workers, Housing

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Two weeks ago, the Sagamore Development Company began negotiating with three coalition groups over $660 million in public financing for a project in Port Covington, Baltimore. Build Up Baltimore, PORT3, and Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD) represent well over 100 labor, housing advocacy, consumer rights, anti-racism, community-based organizations, and churches. Now, it appears Build Up Baltimore and PORT3 have rejected Sagamore’s “last best offer” on terms for the massive project:

“Our coalition didn’t walk away from the table, Sagamore overturned the table,” said Charly Carter, executive director of Maryland Working Families and a co-chair of People Organized for Responsible Transformation, Tax Subsidies and TIFs (PORT3).

[The offer] has “a gaping loophole” on affordable housing and that the parties are “oceans apart” on jobs, profit sharing and other issues as well.

According to Carter, Sagamore, which is owned by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, wanted block workers from organizing and prevent them from speaking out about job conditions:

“We were so excited to sit down with them and talk about the potential,” Carter said. “A person could go to an apprenticeship program and there was enough construction planned over 30 years that they could have retired on this work.”

[…] Sagamore was not willing to make promises about that kind of permanent work or program.

“They just wanted to talk about ‘job readiness programs,’” Carter said. “There are something like 20 job readiness programs already in town.”

At 266 acres, the Port Covington development would be the largest in Baltimore’s history. Throughout the course of negotiations, groups attempted to put local worker protections in place through a Project Labor Agreement. Sagamore did not only refuse, the took unscrupulous steps to undermine such an arrangement: 

In a particularly underhanded move, Sagamore has suggested that a Project Labor Agreement would be bad for minority groups. PLAs, however, feature strong protections for women, minorities, and veterans. Contrary to Sagamore’s spin, this type of agreement may be the only way to ensure fairness on the project.

Now, the two coalition groups will turn their attention to the city council, where they will press for the changes they want:

“We would hope the Council would see our demands as reasonable and pass some amendments to the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) legislation,” [Carter] said.

“We never viewed Sagamore as the people we were ultimately negotiating with – it’s the Council.”

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