The Real Deal New York

Carpenters finalize controversial deal with Related for 50 Hudson Yards

A protest is planned for Related's headquarters on Tuesday
By Kathryn Brenzel | October 23, 2018 01:35PM

Steve Ross, Joseph Geiger, and 50 Hudson Yards (Credit: Getty Images and CCA Metro)

A highly contentious construction agreement between Related Companies and the New York City District Council of Carpenters was approved on Friday — following some speculation that the contract even existed.

The union voted on the deal on Friday, two months after the developer announced that it had reached an agreement to increase the union’s presence on 50 Hudson Yards and the Western Yards. Back in August, Building and Construction Trades Council President Gary LaBarbera stated that no contract existed, that Related was merely pulling a “press stunt.” Though union delegates voted in favor of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) on Friday, LaBarbera stood by his previous statements.

“In the world of MOAs, you don’t have an agreement until it’s a ratified, signed agreement,” LaBarbera said on Monday. “They put out a false statement because there was no agreement at that time.”

Related representatives noted that certain carpenters have already been working on 50 Hudson Yards for more than a year and that the company had a deal with the union “in principle” back in August. An attorney for the developer added that when the BCTC reached an agreement with Related for work on the Eastern Yards, they also announced the deal before it was officially ratified.

“The partnership is a progressive new model that addresses the market by protecting and preserving good paying jobs for NYDCC members,” Joanna Rose, a spokesperson for Related, said in a statement. “This type of creative thinking should be replicated throughout the city and the industry and we look forward to more partnerships with union trades on the future phases of Hudson Yards.”

The MOA, provided by a source to The Real Deal, offers a glimpse into the agreed-to rates for the carpenters doing high-rise concrete and interior work at 50 Hudson Yards and the remaining western portion of the 28-acre project. According to the agreement, high-rise concrete journeymen will receive $85 an hour — $50.12 in wages and $34.88 in benefits. That’s roughly 10.5 percent less than the typical prevailing (union) wage packages as set by the New York City’s Comptroller Office. Overall, the wages for individual workers fell below prevailing rates, with the differences ranging between less than 1 percent to 10.5 percent. The wages of the interior workers match those doing the concrete work, though some of the benefit rates are higher.

The carpenters have previously touted their use of blended rates — increasing the number of lower-paid workers on a site — as one way they’ve remained competitive as nonunions have continued to gain ground. In the agreement with Related, the average rates of the workers — with a ratio of four journeypersons to three provisional journeypersons to two apprentices to one utility worker — will be $60.45 per hour for high-rise concrete workers and $64.64 per hour for those doing interior work.

Joseph Geiger, executive secretary-treasurer of the District Council, said in a statement that the deal with Related guarantees “millions of man hours for union carpenters over several years.”

“That is why our delegates approved the agreement by an overwhelming majority,” he said. “The New York City construction market is evolving, the District Council will continue to innovate to ensure our members meet the needs of the market.”

The agreement between the carpenters and Related has been part of a wider dispute between LaBarbera and the developer. Since last year, BCTC members have been protesting the developer’s use of nonunion labor at 50 Hudson Yards as part of the “Count Me In” campaign. Earlier this year, Related filed a lawsuit against the organization and LaBarbera, alleging that the union’s labor policies drove up costs at Hudson Yards by more than $100 million. Related has said that it won’t pursue project labor agreements with the BCTC — as they did for the eastern portion of Hudson Yards — going forward.

The BCTC has three open cases against Related before the National Labor Relations Board, one of which seeks to compel the developer to share a copy of the MOA, which LaBarbera says it still hasn’t received. The Count Me In campaign plans to hold another protest outside Related’s headquarters Tuesday afternoon.