The Building and Construction Trades Council is stepping up its war against the developer at Hudson Yards, Related Cos. — and the shakeout could spell good news for New Yorkers.
The latest ugliness: Union backers parked a truck with a billboard — slamming Related chief Steve Ross as racist and sexist — outside the company’s Columbus Circle headquarters and Ross’ home.
The sign called on the NFL to boot Ross, who owns the Dolphins, from its social-justice committee.
That echoed the message on banners at a recent union rally in front of the NFL’s Park Avenue HQ, which shut down traffic and led to arrests.
Calling Ross racist is rich. The charge is apparently based on allegations of bias against past Related vendors. But it’s the construction unions that have a long history of shutting out minorities.
A few years back, minority workers sued the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 14, claiming it discourages minorities from joining, but welcomes whites. Sheet Metal Union Local 28 agreed in 2015 to pay $12 million to settle another race-bias lawsuit. That year, the local NAACP warned Trades Council President Gary LaBarbera not to “mislead New Yorkers” about construction unions’ commitment to integration.
The anti-Ross protests are clearly an answer to Related’s lawsuits against the council and LaBarbera for failing to live up to the Project Labor Agreement for the first phase of the Hudson Yards work. The company says union practices violating the deal added $100 million in costs to the job.
For Phase Two, Related hopes to avoid another PLA — specifically, the guarantee that only union shops will be hired for the project. The company has already struck a separate deal with the District Council of Carpenters.
LaBarbera is battling furiously against that approach. Related, after all, is one of the city’s largest builders: If it moves to an “open shop” arrangement, other companies will follow.
The carpenters’ deal is “definitely a landmark transition,” says Anthony Rinaldi of the Associated Builders and Contractors’ New York chapter.
Indeed, over the past decade, the nonunion labor share of city construction work has risen — to as much as 70 percent of residential projects, the Real Estate Board of New York estimates.
That’s good news, since lower non-union costs are passed on to New Yorkers in the form of lower real-estate prices and rents.
LaBarbera’s decision to play the race card suggests he’s worried about the trend spreading to non-residential jobs — a shift that would be a win for the rest of the city.