Head of NYC contractor organization recognizes shift to nonunion labor
- The president of a New York City contractors' group has reportedly acknowledged that nonunion labor in the city's construction industry is becoming a significant force, according to Politico.
- Lou Coletti, president of the Building Trade Employers' Association (BTEA), told a construction and real estate group during a private speech that the BTEA has a growing nonunion membership and that 95% of its construction managers and general contractors are open-shop. He said would prefer the BTEA to be 100% union, but a competitive pricing environment favors open-shop
- Coletti also spoke out against a union-supported measure that would see public subsidies for construction worker training. Coletti said his membership already pays for such training.
Union labor still has a strong influence on the construction industry in New York City and provides the workforce for massive public projects like the $4 billion LaGuardia Airport terminal addition now underway. Union groups argue that they have worked to bring down union wages and costs, and they have negotiated new work rules under collective bargaining agreements in order to stay competitive.
Although unions dominate public work in the city, they are reportedly losing their grip on the private New York construction market. Some of the biggest construction names in the city — such as Tishman Construction and Turner Construction — are using less union labor for their privately funded projects and are choosing the open-shop route, according to The Wall Street Journal. However, unions are not taking this move lying down. For example, Gilbane Construction Co., which reportedly has more than $1 billion of work underway in New York and uses some nonunion labor, is a favorite target of union protestors, who have picketed its projects and headquarters.
Earlier this year, the New York City Council, spurred on by an increase in construction worker injuries and fatalities over the last few years, introduced a series of measures that have been working their way through the city's legislative process. In April, the council's Committee on Housing and Buildings approved six out of 21 proposed bills but left the most contentious one — requiring that all construction workers complete an apprenticeship program — still on the table.
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