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(New York – June 9, 2017) Zetlin & De Chiara, LLP hosted a panel of
New York City’s leading real estate owners and developers, builders and union
professionals on May 31, 2017 at the Union League Club to examine the state of
union labor in New York and its impact on building. The forum was moderated by co-founding
partner Michael De Chiara.
guided a discussion that considered how market forces are influencing the
future of New York’s construction trades: “Organized labor is critical for the
industry and we need to make sure workers have the skills and training to get
the job done right. It’s not good for
New York and it’s not good for business when the safety and integrity of
complex projects are compromised by cutting corners, even for budgeting
Presenters included: Richard T. Anderson, past president of
the New York Building Congress; Jay
Badame, AECOM Tishman; Sabrina L.
Kanner, Brookfield Properties; Gary
LaBarbera, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York; Steve McInnis, the New York City
District Council of Carpenters; Joseph
G. Mizzi, Sciame Construction; Charles F. Murphy, Turner Construction
Company; and Edward V. Piccinich, SL
Green Realty Corp.
The panel debated New York’s high construction costs; the
current trend towards open shop, which is making inroads in the areas of
commercial building and public works projects; and the ways in which unionized
trades are working to become more competitive. They agreed that competition throughout the
market is good for the industry at large as owners and developers seek the
Yet even as the gap between open and union shops is
narrowing, unions still dominate when it comes to providing safety and skills
training, particularly for complex construction. In fact, by necessity, most open shops employ
union members of the construction trades, where on some sites they make up as
much as 80% of the workforce.
The panelists considered the benefits of Project Labor
Agreements (PLAs), such as the one that Z&D crafted on behalf of SL Green
for One Vanderbilt. This framework can
deliver a skilled union workforce, who are compensated fairly, to developers
and general contractors by offering better work terms such as defined schedules
and no risk of a strike.
Creating an open dialogue between the trades was also
discussed, as panelists noted that both sides understand the importance of a
trained workforce, controlling costs and all sides meeting half way.
The panelists noted other significant factors contributing to the high
cost of construction in New York include the challenges of building in a dense
built environment and insurance costs that are among the highest in the nation,
whether a project is union or open shop.