Related cut deal with carpenters union amid heated battle at Hudson Yards

Agreement will expand union's presence at mega-development

From left: renderings of 50 Hudson Yards, Related's Bruce Beal, and CCA Metro's Joe Geiger (Credit: Hudson Yards, Getty Images and CCA Metro)
From left: renderings of 50 Hudson Yards, Related's Bruce Beal, and CCA Metro's Joe Geiger (Credit: Hudson Yards, Getty Images and CCA Metro)

As unions continue to protest at 50 Hudson Yards over the use of nonunion labor, Related Companies has expanded its efforts to go open shop at its megaproject.

The developer announced Tuesday that it cut a deal with the city’s largest construction union — the New York District Council of Carpenters — to increase the number of trades working on 50 Hudson Yards and the rest of the upcoming western portion of the project. Union carpenters — specifically excavation and foundation workers — were already working on the office tower, but the latest agreement will bring superstructure concrete workers, millworkers, finish and framing carpenters, woodworkers and others onto the yet-to-be constructed western rail yards.

The deal is a blow — though an unsurprising one — to other union efforts to pressure Related into signing a project labor agreement for the second half of Hudson Yards. The developer had signed a PLA in 2013 for the first half of the 28-acre project, but hired both union and nonunion labor at 55 Hudson Yards and now 50 Hudson Yards.

Related has previously indicated that it would go open shop for the second half of the 28-acre complex, preferring to negotiate individually with each union rather than with the Building and Construction Trades Council. Earlier this year, the developer filed a lawsuit against the organization and its president, Gary LaBarbera, 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.

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A spokesperson for the BCTC noted that the carpenters’ pension funds have provided financing for Hudson Yards. The carpenters’ union’s funds have provided financing for parts of the Hudson Yards development, including 10 Hudson Yards. The funds haven’t lent to 50 Hudson Yards, according to Related, and it’s not yet clear how the rest of the western rail yards will be financed.

“Related has shamelessly leveraged the carpenter’s financial interest in the Hudson Yards project to its own advantage on the labor relations front and these divisive tactics will not stand,” the spokesperson said. “Related’s agreement with the national carpenters does not give them what they need, a skilled labor force beyond carpentry that can build the project. The national leadership of the carpenters completely ignores the local resistance to Related’s underhanded and oppressive tactics.”

Related representatives wouldn’t release additional details about the agreement with the District Council, only saying that workforces would blend “skilled and unskilled levels to achieve economic efficiencies.” The District Council and other unions have employed this method to compete with the rising presence of less expensive nonunion shops in the city. In previous configurations, the carpenters have combined less-skilled “provisional” journeymen — at $57.57 per hour — for every two skilled journeyman — at $93 per hour on the job (including benefits).

The developer said the deal would add “millions of man-hours for current and future members” of the District Council. Related expects this to be the first of a series of agreements with other unions at Hudson Yards and is in talks with other groups. Representatives declined to identify which unions the developer is negotiating with.

“This District Council, and the unionized construction industry as a whole, cannot remain stuck in the ways of the past while the industry evolves around us,” the union’s Executive Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Geiger said in a statement. “Modernizing our approach is the only way to ensure we can put our members to work and produce the highest quality work.”