Protesters denounce GE as tax deadbeat outside Fairfield HQ
Ruben Berkowitz said he tries to teach his 3-year-old daughter, Veronica Rose, to do the right thing. So he brought the toddler with him Monday afternoon to join a tax-filing-day protest outside General Electric's corporate headquarters in Fairfield.
Carrying signs urging the company to pay over $4 billion in federal taxes and chanting, "GE, pay your taxes!" about 50 people took part in the demonstration sponsored by the political action group, MoveOn.org.
"This is an issue my wife and I think is very important," said Berkowitz, a Trumbull resident. "I think it's unfair. I try to play by the rules and I try to teach that to my daughter."
Terry Masters, from Stratford and a MoveOn representative, said she pays federal taxes. "I think GE should pay their fair share," she said. Masters not only delivered a "tax bill" for $4.9 billion to a GE security guard, but also a box full of petitions from people who think Jeffrey Immelt, the GE CEO and "one of America's biggest corporate tax dodgers," should step down from the President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
As the deadline to pay federal and state taxes fell Monday, the local protest was organized as part of a nationwide campaign by MoveOn targeting highlighting corporations it calls the "deadbeat dozen" because they pay little or no taxes to the federal government. They include: GE, Bank of America, Google, BP, Amazon, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Boeing, ExxonMobil, FedEx, Goldman Sachs and Chase.
"I just paid taxes on my unemployment," Masters said, "and GE doesn't pay taxes on $14 billion in profits."
Protester George Levinson said he was disgusted by the corporations that do not pay federal taxes. "This should never happen again," said he Hamden resident. "I'm truly angry about this situation."
The group marched from the commuter parking lot on Jefferson Street across the Easton Turnpike to in front of the GE complex, where they lined the street, waving signs and chanting. Many passing motorists beeped their horns.
Longtime Monroe resident Karen French, laid off three years ago after working for 18 years with a moving company, said she has done everything she can to tighten her belt. "I'm struggling just to stay afloat," French said. "They're the ones getting all the tax breaks. There's nothing else for us to sacrifice. It's time for them to pay up."
No one from GE management came out from headquarters to meet with protesters. A spokesman for GE was nor immediately available Monday afternoon.
GE battled the town over its property assessment in 2001, and the case was settled in court in 2005, according to Assessor Thomas Browne Jr. The town had set the market value for the Easton Turnpike corporate headquarters -- which includes two office buildings and a hotel -- at about $97 million, while GE argued it was $68 million. The court reduced the town's appraisal by $1 million.
Today, the property and buildings have an appraisal of $87 million.