A nonunion construction firm, Flintlock Construction Services, is making deep inroads into the Manhattan market, which has long been dominated by union firms. Crain’s reported the firm has contracts to erect or alter nine buildings that rise 20 stories or taller, mostly in Midtown, including a 27-story hotel under construction at Lexington Avenue and East 45th Street, a 37-story hotel on West 42nd Street and a 22-story Courtyard by Marriott on West 30th Street. The company was also selected by Zeckendorf Realty, a longtime union developer, for its 18 Gramercy Park condominium conversion.
The firm started out using union workers, but as Flintlock landed more affordable housing projects it needed to switch to cheaper, nonunion labor to make the projects financially viable. The firm gained experience in other sectors during the construction boom in the early 2000s. At that time, most union contractors were booked with projects, and that opened a path for their nonunion counterparts to gain work.
With this experience, Flintlock was able to reduce construction time to compete with unions, while offering lower rates, according to Andrew Weiss, the firm’s managing member. He said Flintlock often bids 25 percent to 40 percent lower than its union rivals — especially on smaller projects that lack the economy of scale that can benefit unions. Much of the cost reductions come from lower wages. Flintlock carpenters, for example, earn $15 to $40 an hour, as opposed to $83 per hour, including benefits, for union carpenters.
“To us, Flintlock’s ability to win work is a poster child for how much more we need to accomplish in reducing costs to be competitive,” said Louis Coletti, president of Building Trades Employers’ Association, a union contractor representative. “They start in affordable housing, they learn, and they progressively go into different markets, winning larger and larger work.” [Crain’s]