Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) charged job seekers a fee of $20 to attend a joint job fair on Thursday in the Midwood section of Brooklyn.
The fair was organized by the OU Job Board in conjunction with Yachad, the Jewish Union Foundation (JUF), and Assemblyman Dov Hikind, in order to connect job seekers with employers and create a network of communication between those seeking to fulfill the skills they have and employers looking to hire.
Some 30 companies on hand included Americare, B&H Photo, Forest Hills Financial Group, New York Life, and Price Waterhouse, among others. Approximately 400 people attended the fair.
“These job fairs have proven to be excellent opportunities for members of our community,” Hikind said in a press release prior to the event. “Attendees of our job fair will walk away with new contacts and interview opportunities that, in the past, have often led to employment..This is part of our ongoing effort to make a difference in people’s lives.”
But while Mr. Hikind, who’s running for reelection on November 4, boasted that the job fair was intended to help the needy, it required the unemployed to pay a fee to enter. Walk-in participants were required to pay a $20 registration fee in cash in order to attend the event that was secured by security guards. According to the organizers, the online registration only required a $10 registration fee.
“I’ve never heard of an elected official holding a for-pay job fair. That’s not helpful to people who are unemployed,” former Bronx Assemblyman Michael Benjamin told The New York Post. “If you don’t get a job, you’re out of $20.”
The New York Post also reported that Hikind, who has $792,691 in his campaign treasury, defended the fee. “There are expenses involved. It takes money to put this together,” Hikind said of the Jobs Fair held at Young Israel of Midwood on Thursday. Hikind said many people who showed up at the door were allowed in for free, if they said they couldn’t afford the fee.
A notice put out by the Orthodox Union Jobs Board last month also required employers to pay $200 to participate and not-for-profit groups, $100.
OU Job Board executive director Michael Rosner said that said “95 percent” of the walk-ins at the fair paid the fee and were aware of it. And those who said they couldn’t afford the admission fee were allowed in without paying, according to Rosner’s statement in the NY Post.
“We don’t rudely say goodbye,” he said. “I personally passed through seven or eight people who couldn’t afford it.”
The participants consisted mostly from middle aged, 18 and older to special needs kids. “Why are you charging me money to enter? I am unemployed,” one angry person, who refused to identify himself, told a staffer at the entrance. Another person, a lady who arrived at around 6:15 pm, was furious that she was still asked to pay the fee to spend the last 45 minutes at the event.
Hikind attended the job fair for two hours, walking the crowd and posing for pictures, as his campaign posters were hung on the walls, and campaign palm cards were present at the entrance.
According to an OU official, Mr. Hikind was told specifically by the non-for profit organizations that he would not be permitted to hang up any campaign posters or distribute campaign literature at the job fair.
Hikind has been slammed in headlines and may penitentially face criminal charges. In September, a company owned by Hikind was investigated by Governor Cuomo's anti-corruption commission for the thousands of dollars it received from Maimonides Medical Center. In July, the hospital revealed that over the past year it gave $65,000 to Hikind's ad company to advertise on his weekly radio show. Originally Hikind had not disclosed any income from his company, then later changed his filings.