The Real Deal New York

The deal that wasn’t? BCTC says carpenters union didn’t reach agreement with Related

Developer insists the deal is real
By Kathryn Brenzel | August 10, 2018 10:10AM

Clockwise from left: 50 Hudson Yards, Gary LaBarbera, and Bruce Beal Jr. (Credit: Hudson Yards and Getty)

Related Companies says there’s a deal with the city’s carpenters’ union at Hudson Yards — one of “historic” proportions. The Building and Construction Trades Council suspects there isn’t one. And the carpenters’ union is staying quiet.

The latest dispute to play out between the developer and the BCTC circles around whether or not the New York City District Council of Carpenters reached an agreement with Related for more work at Hudson Yards. On Tuesday, the developer announced a deal that will increase the union’s presence at 50 Hudson Yards and the rest of the upcoming western portion of the project.

But BCTC President Gary LaBarbera said on Thursday that the announcement wasn’t true and was intended to distract from his organization’s opposition to the development’s use of nonunion labor, as well as an incident at 50 Hudson Yards Monday evening. (A truck backed into a fire hydrant on the site, causing flooding and injuring a pedestrian whose foot fell through the softened ground, amNewYork reported.) He said the carpenters’ union has been in negotiations with Related for more than a year, but they haven’t reached an official agreement.

“There is no deal,” LaBarbera said on Thursday. “This is a mere press stunt for Related to try to save face.”

In a letter to Related’s attorney provided to The Real Deal, the BCTC asked the developer for a copy of its agreement with the carpenters’ union. The letter cites a clause — known as the most favored nations clause — in the 2013 project labor agreement for the eastern portion of Hudson Yards. Under the clause, if a new agreement is made with another union while the 2013 PLA is still active and it has more favorable terms, the older PLA could upgrade to similar terms. If the developer refuses to match the terms, the union group is entitled to an expedited arbitration proceeding.

The letter noted that in absence of receiving a copy of Related’s agreement with the carpenters (to determine if the union received more favorable terms than the 2013 PLA), the BCTC will pursue an arbitration proceeding. In other words, LaBarbera is calling what he sees as Related’s bluff.

Joanna Rose, a spokesperson for Related, called the notion “fake news” and a distraction from the BCTC’s “failed PLA structure.”

“We do have an agreement with the carpenters and the ‘most favored nations’ issue he is now seeking to raise in desperation is neither arbitrable or applicable under the PLA,” she said in a statement. “The misguided power play and bullying tactics in the name of ‘solidarity’ are a thinly veiled attempt to protect the antiquated and obsolete role of the BCTC and their political leader Gary LaBarbera, while doing irreparable harm to their individual members.”

Representatives for the District Council and its umbrella organization, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC), didn’t return multiple messages seeking comment. Both groups did, however, include statements in Related’s press release on Tuesday. Related declined to provide a copy of the agreement.

LaBarbera also criticized the UBC’s role in Tuesday’s announcement, noting that the carpenters’ pension funds have provided financing for Hudson Yards and other Related projects. He said the organization is putting business interests before union members.

“They have put the local New York City District Council in a terrible position because they are using them as no more than public relations pawns,” LaBarbera said.

This is just the latest in a long series of clashes between LaBarbera and Related. BCTC members have been protesting the developer’s use of nonunion labor at 50 Hudson Yards since last year under the banner of the “Count Me In” campaign. Earlier this year, Related filed a lawsuit against the organization and the labor boss, alleging that the union’s labor policies drove up costs at Hudson Yards by more than $100 million. The complaint also blames LaBarbera for failing to enforce the PLA.

Union excavation and foundation workers — part of the carpenters’ union — have been working on 50 Hudson Yards. Both the leadership at the District Council and the BCTC have said that the union’s work at the office tower amid protests hasn’t impacted their relationship. The District Council threw its support behind some of the protests but maintained that they weren’t opposing Related specifically.

According to Related, the disputed agreement will bring superstructure concrete workers, millworkers, finish and framing carpenters, woodworkers and others onto the yet-to-be-constructed western rail yards.