It could be a new day for labor relations in New York City with the announcement that developer Related Cos. and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (BCTC) have struck a deal, in essence, to play nice.
Related and the BCTC announced Wednesday that they had entered into an "historic accord” that, among other things, would end nasty litigation, protests, and the media war of words that have characterized their relationship over the last few years.
“This agreement is good for Related, good for the union construction industry and good for New York City," said Lou Coletti, president and CEO of the Building Trades Employers’ Association.
The latest dustup between the two stemmed from construction at Related’s $25 billion Hudson Yards development in Manhattan and questions around which unions would participate. Related ended up filing a lawsuit claiming that it had been cheated out of $100 million during the first phase of construction by corrupt unions and that the BCTC was trying to include those companies in the labor agreement for the second phase.
The BCTC accused Related of engaging in union-busting behavior and filed a complaint against the developer with the National Labor Relations Board. The trade council also filed a lawsuit against one of Related’s concrete subcontractors alleging that the company, at Related’s urging, was formed to operate outside of the collective bargaining agreements that governed other contractors at Hudson Yards.
Related followed up with a second lawsuit against the BCTC claiming that the council was intentionally impeding progress at Hudson Yards and that its members were refusing to make concrete deliveries to the project. Related also struck a deal with the New York City District Council of Carpenters independent of agreements with the BCTC.
But all of that is in the past, according to Related and the BCTC.
"Together we have put aside our differences and come to an historic agreement that will benefit the city’s economy and our workforce with good, middle-class construction jobs for years to come,” said Gary LaBarbera, BCTC president. "This new agreement is a win-win and the start of a renewed partnership to move the industry forward with joint commitments to modernization and competitive models.”
The new agreement also takes place in an environment in which nonunion contractors are gaining traction and bringing lower wages with them. A carpenters union survey published in The New York Times found that unions still make up the majority of the Manhattan construction workforce but not even 40% in the city's outer boroughs where pay rates are as low as $15 per hour.
More details about the new pact are likely to continue to emerge but for now, the two said that future agreements will be guided by their joint commitment to:
- Professional culture.
- Drug- and alcohol-free workplaces.
- Productivity and efficiency.
- Pre-apprenticeship programs.
- Collaboration between labor and management.
- Economic competitiveness of each trade.
- Accountability of each trade.
“The agreement is a win-win," said Bruce Beal Jr., president of Related, "and reflects our shared values and commitment to good-paying jobs with great benefits, skills training and expanded opportunities and diversity ... It also is an important step forward in modernizing the industry with creating greater transparency and offers the potential for even more New Yorkers to join this great industry.”