The Real Deal New York

Why an influential construction trade group is now embracing nonunion hardhats

Lou Colletti says BTEA is adapting to market changes
July 05, 2017 12:30PM

Lou Coletti

One of the city’s largest construction trade groups is starting to welcome nonunion members as the industry increasingly shifts to open shop construction.

The Building Trade Employers’ Association is embracing open shop companies as a majority of its general contractors and construction managers turn to nonunion labor, according to Politico. During a private speech delivered to the Construction & Realty Services Group, BTEA President Lou Coletti described the membership shift and also promised to sue if the City Council passes a bill that would require government-funded subsidies for increased worker training. Union groups — including the Building and Construction Trades Council, led by Gary LaBarbera — had pushed for a bill that went even further, which would’ve mandated a state-run apprenticeship program for construction workers on 10-story-plus buildings. The bill is still being negotiated and is expected to be redrafted.

“We know we’ve lost a tremendous amount of market share in the residential marketplace as well as the interior marketplace,” Coletti said, according to a recording obtained by Politico. “It’s a fact. We’re in an open shop environment — that isn’t going to change. The question is, how is the BTEA going to change to address that?”

Coletti later noted that the BTEA — which represents 27 contractor associations — would prefer using 100 percent union labor but not all of these companies are being cost competitive. Last year, Coletti told The Real Deal that without dramatic cost reductions, the open shop model was likely here to stay. [Politico] — Kathryn Brenzel