Contractors Try to Bypass Unions
New York City's major construction contractors are gearing up to go around union chiefs and directly reach out to members to get them to agree to reductions in wages and benefits.
With an upcoming round of major contract negotiations approaching, the umbrella construction employer group says it will target "rank and file" union members to make management's case. Contractors, who are represented by the Building Trades Employers' Association
, say that major concessions are necessary to help crank up the city's construction industry.
Union officials call the move "draconian" and an "unprecedented" scare tactic. "These are very bold steps the [association] is taking and it will definitely effect the tenor of our negotiations," says Gary La Barbera, the president of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York
, an umbrella union group.
The move by the association threatens the relationship between the contractors and unions—who made a show of trying to work together during the downturn to keep construction costs down and employment up. Construction employment, which hit a peak of an average of 131,383 in 2008, fell to an average of 115,500 in 2010, according to New York Building Congress
, a trade organization which represents both labor and management.