The Real Deal New York

Related and Gary LaBarbera reach agreement over Hudson Yards

Pact does not seem to give much ground to the unions
By Kathryn Brenzel | March 06, 2019 05:22PM

Building Construction Trades Council president Gary LaBarbera, Hudson Yards, and Related CEO Steve Ross

After more than a year of fighting, the Building Construction Trades Council and Related Companies have agreed to peace.

As part of the deal, the developer will drop its litigation against the BCTC and its president, Gary LaBarbera. In return, the labor organization will stop participating in protests outside Hudson Yards over Related’s use of nonunion labor.

While Related and the BCTC are billing the agreement as “historic,” the lack of ground ceded by the developer is striking: Related does not appear to be pledging to use all union labor at 50 Hudson Yards nor the western portion of the megaproject — which was the reason for the BCTC’s participation in several heated protests in the past year-and-a-half.

In a press release sent out on Wednesday, the BCTC and Related noted that the two parties will work together on future agreements with individual unions. But Related had already succeeded in cutting deals with two major union organizations: The New York City District Council of Carpenters and the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers to work at Hudson Yard. The latest agreement with LaBarbera seems to only change the BCTC president’s level of involvement in such deals in the future and Related’s willingness to negotiate with certain groups, including union laborers. Related had previously sworn off working with LaBarbera, along with laborers, lathers and electrician unions for allegedly violating their labor agreements.

“Together we have put aside our differences and come to an historic agreement that will benefit the city’s economy and our workforce with good, middle class construction jobs for years to come,” LaBarbera said in a statement. “Throughout a relationship that has spanned decades, Related has employed more of our tradesmen and women than any other private developer and together we proudly built Phase I of Hudson Yards. This new agreement is a win-win and the start of a renewed partnership to move the industry forward with joint commitments to modernization and competitive models.”

The Real Deal first reported last month that Related and the BCTC were engaging in potential peace talks. It’s not clear if the new deal will quell the #CountMeIn campaign, which organized several elaborate protests outside Hudson Yards and Related’s headquarters and often incorporated signs involving Steve Ross’ disembodied head. The #CountMeIn campaign started as a smaller set of protests outside Hudson Yards and then ballooned — with the backing of the BCTC — into traffic-stopping, raucous affairs at Columbus Circle and Union Square. The central message of the campaign was union solidarity, evidenced in the motto “no retreat no surrender.”

But throughout the conflict between Related and the BCTC, there’s been discord between the leadership of the city’s largest unions and its rank-and-file members.

Most recently, the parent union of Local 46 — International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers — took over the local chapter and fired its leadership after members refused to cross a picket line to work on 50 Hudson and the western yard, Politico reported. The international had negotiated a deal with Related to work on the project. Last year, some carpenters were also unhappy with a similar deal reached between Related and the District Council to expand the union’s role at 50 Hudson Yards and western yard. At the time, LaBarbera disputed that the deal even existed.

Representatives for the BCTC and Related wouldn’t provide further comment on the deal.

The suspension of hostilities comes just one week before Related’s planned grand opening of the shops and restaurants at Hudson Yards. Over the past month, the #CountMeIn campaign’s twitter account has posted vague advertisements for a rally planned for March 15.

Last year, Related filed two lawsuits against the BCTC and LaBarbera, one of which accused the trade group of inflating costs at the project by $100 million. The other accused the group of interfering with construction at 50 Hudson Yards by intimidating drivers delivering concrete. In a statement, Bruce Beal Jr., president of Related, also called the new agreement with the BCTC a “win-win.”

“It also is an important step forward in modernizing the industry with creating greater transparency, and offers the potential for even more New Yorkers to join this great industry,” he said.