Skip to main content

Union head LaBarbera: “We are negotiating with the market” (and was that the way to look at modular deal?)

There was an interesting quote in the 6/12/15 Wall Street Journal profile of Gary LaBarbera, Growth of Nonunion Construction Tests New York City Labor Leader, subtitled "New reality for unions leads to negotiated compromise on hours, wages":
Even five years ago, it was unimaginable that a developer would defy the city’s powerful construction unions, led by Gary LaBarbera, and try to build a complicated Manhattan building without relying entirely on his members.
...Developers’ increasing willingness to work with nonunion workers has been prompted by rising construction costs, an increase in foreign investment and ownership that has upended long-term loyalties, and a pool of nonunion workers now capable of building high-rises.
In this context, Mr. LaBarbera, 6 foot 2 inches tall with a Long Island accent and a booming voice, would seem on first meeting to fit the stereotype of the union boss knocking heads together.
...But one of Mr. LaBarbera’s frequent sayings—“We are negotiating with the market”—suggests an understanding of business realities that might have seemed anathema to union leaders of old.
That may be a frequent saying, but it was the first time I'd seen it in an article.

What's the "market"?

It sounds reasonable, but, as we've learned with Atlantic Yards, "the market" isn't always free.

Remember MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow's 2005 comment that the $214.5 million appraisal for the Vanderbilt Yard was "just some guy's idea of what it's worth," then adding, as if in some bizarro free-market world, "That was his opinion, and it wasn't borne out by the marketplace.” (Forest City Ratner had the inside track, so only one rival bidder emerged.)

Or the 2009 deal revision, in which the MTA agreed to provide more favorable terms to Forest City Ratner without seeking any other bidders or adding clauses to provide more returns to the public in case the economy turned. 

“Y’know, these railyards have been there for a very long time,” suggested Jeffrey Kay, director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations. “The reality is, it’s only worth what someone’s willing to provide... There is no other market.”

The Atlantic Yards modular deal

Since 2009, LaBarbera has been president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (BCTC), which consists "of local affiliates of 15 national and international unions representing 100,000 working men and women in the New York City."

His "frequent saying" certainly seems to address the BCTC's agreement with Forest City Ratner to agree to a new division, at a lower wage rate, inside the factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to build pieces of the B2 modular tower. 

The WSJ reported:
“People told me it would be a cold day in hell or it would be an impossible feat to get the unions’ head around modular construction,” said MaryAnne Gilmartin, president and chief executive officer of Forest City. Ms. Gilmartin said that Mr. LaBarbera was ultimately convinced that modular would open a new avenue of business for unions.
Looking back at the modular deal

That may be true. But it was a little more complicated than that.

As I wrote in November 2012 regarding Forest City's modular deal, the Forest City press release stated:
Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said, “Today, we move forward with an innovative approach to development that will allow us to realize the vision of the Atlantic Yards project and create traditional construction jobs that may otherwise have been at risk. And as we bring training, skill, quality and safety to modular construction through a strong labor-management partnership on this project, we see the potential to have this approach improve our competitiveness elsewhere in the local market and expand into an export industry to create even more sustainable union jobs that pay good wages and benefits.”
From the Times:
Under the new agreement, Mr. La Barbera said union factory workers would earn $55,000 a year, 25 percent less than the average union construction worker. But, he said, the trade-off is that the factory worker will work steady hours throughout the year, regardless of the weather.
“We see this as an opportunity to get into markets we’re not in,” Mr. La Barbera said. We can’t ignore an emerging industry. We see it as creating more job opportunities in residential construction.”
From the Daily News:
"It's not a pay cut," said La Barbera. "We're trying to create jobs for our members. I mean this as a 125-person modular jobs and we have 100,000 members. Also, the first six months of this job are no different than a regular job with site excavation and building the steel structure. This whole thing is a win-win for everyone."
Actually, there was a clear pay cut, if you look at the compensation that was originally expected for those working on Atlantic Yards.

The unions, interestingly enough, apparently agreed that they didn't have enough leverage to maintain the original Atlantic Yards promises. However, given that Forest City Ratner promised to build union, it would seem that the unions had significant leverage.

LaBarbera's history

The Wall Street Journal reported:
Mr. LaBarbera, 55 years old, had been involved with the Teamsters since 1981, starting as a forklift operator. ...During his time as the city’s top Teamsters official, he was credited with cleaning up corruption and getting rid of the influence of the Gambino crime family.
In 2009, he resolved an internal union dispute alleging that he turned a blind eye to an employer that failed to make payments into the union’s benefit fund. Under the resolution, Mr. LaBarbera, who said he had no intention of seeking office in the Teamsters local in the future, agreed not to do so.
The phrasing of the paragraph directly above--"he resolved an internal union dispute"--skates a bit over what actually happened.

LaBarbera did not admit or deny the charges. But the charges, interestingly enough, came from the same investigator who LaBarbera used to clean up the Teamsters. The Village Voice reported in 2008:
Members of LaBarbera's Local 282 haul construction material and debris, and last month, the union's name surfaced in the big Gambino crime-family case in Brooklyn. Some of the schemes charged in the indictment stem from trucking employers who allegedly used mob muscle to scam the union out of benefits owed on behalf of employees.
But unlike the bad old days when John Gotti's gang ruled the roost at the local, LaBarbera helped squelch the scammers. He did so by retaining an independent, court-supervised investigator who helped break the case. The investigator, Robert Machado, was first to spot the schemes, tipping off federal investigators at the Office of Labor Racketeering. "I got nothing but cooperation from LaBarbera," said Machado.
In 2009, the Voice's Tom Robbins reported, TOP CITY LABOR LEADER AGREES TO STAY CLEAR OF TEAMSTERS:
Gary La Barbera, the current president of the city's Building and Construction Trades Council and a top supporter of Mayor Bloomberg's push to overturn term limits, has agreed not to seek to rejoin the Teamsters union where he was once the city's top local official.
The deal follows a complaint filed in June by a special investigator for Teamsters Local 282, the powerful 3,000-member union that represents drivers who haul construction materials at building sites. Investigator Robert Machado had sought La Barbera's ouster from the Teamsters for having allegedly allowed an employer to skip payments to the union's benefit funds. The complaint was reported in June by the New York Times.
The complaint said that La Barbera had purposely looked the other way after being warned by members and others that a contractor, Joseph Sullo, was secretly running a rogue nonunion shop alongside a separate company that had a signed contract with Local 282. La Barbera denied it but Sullo pled guilty in 2005 to federal charges of defrauding Teamster benefit funds.
Bruce Maffeo, La Barbera's attorney, said that the settlement "contains neither admission nor denial of the charges which we believe were completely unfounded."

Comments

  1. Anonymous11:08 PM

    Great as usual. reminds us of Stu Applebaum the unanimously re-elected President of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. Supports varied tiers of pay and benefits for workers. Endorsed Quinn despite her clear antipathy to all things labor.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming + FAQ (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in January 2018, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won't be so cheap.

As …

The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).

As…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…