The Real Deal New York

Union boss LaBarbera says he tried compromising with JDS

Michael Stern plans to build 111 West 57th Street with nonunion labor

June 15, 2015 02:45PM

From left: Gary LaBarbera and Michael Stern

From left: Gary LaBarbera and Michael Stern

In the fight between JDS Development Group’s Michael Stern and union labor over the company’s plans for nonunion construction at supertall 111 West 57th Street, labor leader Gary LaBarbera says he was not entirely unwilling to compromise.

LaBarbera, who heads the Building and Construction Trades Council, tried to negotiate with Stern and get him to accept a project labor agreement, which allows for some flexibility in workers’ schedules and sometimes wages and benefits, according to the Wall Street Journal.

““We are being very pragmatic, being very realistic about what’s happening in the industry. It is our desire and my desire to figure out solutions,” LaBarbera said.

But Stern rejected the compromise, saying that the price differential was too big. Stern estimates the cost difference is 30 to 40 percent between union and nonunion labor.

“Gary is the CEO of Blockbuster video,” Stern said. “He needs to find a way to adapt and become Netflix.”

In March, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer inserted herself into the dispute by sending a letter to Stern expressing her concerns over safety. Also in March, union protesters disrupted a multifamily conference to speak out against JDS’ plans. [WSJ] — Tess Hofmann