Saturday, November 26, 2011

Have unions "saved" Bruce yet? Not quite (though not unlikely)

I'm a little late on this but I should point out that, while the 11/23/11 Brooklyn Paper article headlined Unions save Bruce with big pay cut to get Yards going sounds like a scoop, it offers no new evidence:
Union workers are coming to Bruce Ratner’s rescue — again! — agreeing to take massive pay cuts to pave the way for the first residential building at Atlantic Yards, a cut-rate, pre-fabricated tower to rise next to the Barclays Center.

...It is unclear how much money will be lost to laborers, but carpenters make as much as $90 an hour in wages and benefits at real construction sites, but only $30 per hour when working inside the kind of factory where Ratner will build the pre-fabricated units.

Many union leaders merely shrugged when asked about the pay cuts, suggesting that if the workers don’t give back, the project might not go ahead, leaving laborers with no work at all.

“We are attempting to reach an agreement … that will work for the building trades,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council.

A labor union source translated LaBarbera for those who don’t speak the language of press releases.

“The unions are going to do what it takes to preserve jobs for their members,” said the source. “The wage scale is ultimately going to be [the deciding factor]. This is going to be a long process.”
Yes, LaBarbera's quote--offered in accompaniment to Forest City Ratner's release of its modular plans--indicate that the unions are prepared to deal with Forest City Ratner.

But it's not clear exactly what will happen. Given that Forest City has not yet established that modular factory it plans, it's quite possible that the unions will compromise on compensation for conventional construction for the first building.

The lingering questions

As this story develops, the government bodies that approved Forest City Ratner's plans and subsidies for the developer should ask for--and establish--a new estimate of jobs, wages, and tax revenues.

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