Together but separate: Though carpenters join union rally against Related, they aren’t protesting the developer

BCTC has protested against Hudson Yards project since last year

Union members protested outside Related Companies’ 50 Hudson Yards
Union members protested outside Related Companies’ 50 Hudson Yards

For several months, members of the New York City District Council of Carpenters continued working at 50 Hudson Yards while other construction unions protested the development across the street. On Wednesday, they’ll join a massive rally aimed at the project and its developer — but say they will be protesting separate issues.

The Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York has been holding regular protests near 50 Hudson Yards since last year, with certain trades boycotting the entire development unless Related Companies hires all union labor for the second phase of the megaproject. The carpenters’ union, however, hasn’t participated because they already had a contract at 50 Hudson Yards.

But following a release that BCTC blasted out on Tuesday announcing the protest at Seventh Avenue and 40th Street against Related and its decision to hire open shop labor, the district council took to Twitter to call on its members to join the rally “to fight to keep NYC a union city!”

Related and Hudson Yards weren’t mentioned in the tweet, and a representative for the carpenters’ union indicated that the district council is not protesting against Related or Hudson Yards but on broader attacks on the city’s unions.

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These attacks include a series of subway ads that blame BCTC president Gary LaBarbera and the union for “taking valuable resources away from the subway repairs and upgrades” through “expensive work rules” and “cost overruns.” WNYC reported last month that the Center for Union Facts — run by corporate lobbyist Richard Berman — was behind the campaign.

“[The Center for Union Facts] is infamous for its lack of transparency and unscrupulous tactics. It has no place in New York City,” Joseph Geiger, the executive secretary-treasurer of the carpenters’ union, said in a statement. “The district council is not protesting against a specific developer. We are joining in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the building trades against the recurrent attacks on organized labor.”

Related declined to comment.

The developer is in the middle of an ugly legal battle with the BCTC. The developer filed a lawsuit against the organization and LaBarbera last month, alleging that the group inflated construction costs by more than $100 million at the megaproject. The bills were allegedly increased, in part, by having two higher-ranking union members of the Concrete Workers District Council serve as “coffee boys.” BCTC has dismissed the lawsuit as an attempt to “shift the blame for a poorly run project to others.”

Separately, the carpenters’ union has been dealing with its own leadership issues. In late February, the group’s president and second-in-command, Steve McInnis, resigned amid misconduct charges. And in early March, the union’s independent monitor recommended that it remain under his supervision for another year.