NEW YORK, N.Y.—Thousands of construction workers crammed the blocks south of Times Square Apr. 4, protesting the Related Companies’ use of nonunion labor on the Hudson Yards development. Chanting “Union!” and waving American flags and green “#CountMeIn” placards, they burst out of the police-barricade pens to fill all of Seventh Avenue between 40th and 41st streets.

Trade Unionists in NYC see the fight over Hudson Yards as a battle for workers nationwide.

“The first thing I want to say is that New York City is a union town, and you can count me in,” Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said to open the rally. Calling for a moment of silence to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, he noted that when King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968, he was there to support striking sanitation workers—“and 50 years later, we’re still in the streets.”

Related, which built the first phase of the Hudson Yards development with union workers, has refused to sign a project-labor agreement for the second phase. The developer hired the Boston contractor Gilbane Building Company, which uses a so-called “open shop” mix of union and nonunion workers, to construct 55 Hudson Yards, a 51-story office tower. At 50 Hudson Yards, a 58-story office tower Related says will be the city’s fourth largest when it’s completed in 2022, it has already brought in nonunion metallic lathers and operating engineers, union leaders say. It also has not used any workers from Laborers Local 79 on the building’s core, says Mason Tenders District Council business manager Bobby Bonanza.

The developer’s strategy is “to pick off the most vulnerable,” Bonanza told LaborPress, and then go after the other trades. Nonunion labor is cheaper, he told the crowd, but “it’s not about saving nothin’. It’s about breaking us.”

A Related lawyer, LaBarbera said, told the real-estate trade journal The Real Deal that the company would rather deal with individual unions than with him because he’s “old school.”

“What old-school means is a 100-percent building-trades job,” LaBarbera declared. “Old-school means dignity in the workplace.”

“100 percent. That’s right,” a man in the crowd called back.

Related is also suing the Building Trades Council and LaBarbera personally, accusing them of defamation and fraudulently inflating labor costs. The council, joined by the New York State AFL-CIO, has responded by filing unfair-labor-practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing it of illegally retaliating against union supporters.

“What old-school means is a 100-percent building-trades job,” LaBarbera declared. “Old-school means dignity in the workplace.”

Building Trades leader Gary LaBarbera addresses the 7th Ave. rally.

The accusations, says Building Trades general council Carol Pennington, include that Related threatened to fire workers for having “Count Me In” stickers on their hardhats, “interrogated” workers about the campaign, and that the lawsuit is an attempt to intimidate the union.

“If they think suing us is going to scare us, they made a big fuckin’ mistake,” LaBarbera told the crowd.

The crowd was loud and profane, but peaceful. Unions quickly worked out a deal with police not to contest workers breaking out of the protest pens.

Both building-trades leaders and rank-and-file members, however, see Related’s use of nonunion labor on a project this big as a struggle with national implications. “It’s not only about New York,” Carpenters Local 157 member Dave Songuy, 46, told LaborPress. Developers and Donald Trump “want to dismantle unions, and we want to keep them together. New York City is the last stronghold.”

“As goes New York City, as goes New York State, so goes this nation,” Vincent Alvarez of the New York City Central Labor Council told the crowd.

“If you can break the trades in New York, they’re done in the rest of the country,” said Steamfitters Local 638 President Patrick Dolan Jr. “It ain’t gonna happen under us.”

Several union leaders said the silver lining was that the situation had provoked the biggest uproar from building-trades workers in two decades. “This is the proudest moment I’ve had,” Lenny Legotti of Elevator Constructors Local 1 declared.

“Union is the best. You get medical care, pension, and prevailing wage,” Amardeep Singh, 33, a member of International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 9, told LaborPress. “You’ve got to fight for the union. So many people died. Nonunion’s not safe.”

“Ten thousand construction workers came together to stand up against Related and Hudson Yards’ open-shop model,” LaBarbera said after the rally. “Rank-and-file members have had enough of developers’ tactics of trying to divide the building trades.”




13 thoughts on “#CountMeIn: It’s Not Just About Hudson Yards”

    1. We need to make all Hudson Yards 100percent union.Nonunion work very unsafe,do not have all proper certifications,and are working for cash,they undercut the prevailing union working wages,we will not go backwards anymore,we already gave concessions,now is the time to act,now is the time to fight back,fight for union work,bring dignity respect back to the union brothers and sisters who build America,unions Gave us the 8hour working day,they gave us great benefits such as medical,pension,life insurance,vacation pay,annuity,etc,Every man ,women,and everyone needs union to bring respect,good wages,and security,back to middle class family,everyone should attend Tuesday’s rally.

  1. Tax cheat Stephen Ross (net worth $7.6 billion), chairman and majority owner of Related Companies, and Bruce Beal partner and president of Related Companies, are top policymakers of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and sit on REBNY’s Executive Board. They, along with REBNY member, Related’s CEO and partner Jeff Blau ( purchaser of a $51 million Upper East Side mansion in 2015) and REBNY President John Banks, believe union construction workers are pampered and grossly overpaid!
    But REBNY’s attacks are not only against construction unions and their members’ families. REBNY’s assault is against the 99%. Regarding any major real estate dealings, keep this in mind: REBNY’s rezoning policies are behind “manufactured gentrification” or the unnatural process called hyper-gentrification on steroids that has led to the bulldozing of communities and destruction of viable schools, libraries, hospitals, churches, playgrounds, parks, community gardens and historic buildings. REBNY’s rezoning policies are spurring massive displacement of tenants, including families of union members. They are the major factor behind the lack of real affordable housing, the increasing homelessness crisis and record numbers of small business closures throughout the five boroughs.
    REBNY is able to run roughshod over New Yorkers because the Mayor, City Council Speaker(s), Economic Development Corporation and City Department of Planning are all schilling for the super-wealthy developers, property speculators and landlords. Learn about how you can help end REBNY’s political dominance and stop REBNY’s billionaire bullies from continuing to run roughshod over unions, small businesses and the 99% by visiting the website:
    Check out the dozens of political candidates and incumbents like City Council Members Carolina Rivera and Ben Kallos and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and the five Democratic State Senate candidates, Alessandro Biaggi, John Duane, Robert Jackson, Zellnor Myrie and Jasmine Robinson who are running against Trump IDC Democrats and are individually photographed rebuking REBNY by posing with the leaflet, “Beware of REBNY Real Estate BULLIES Plaguing New York.” Click on the “Media Section” to listen to Blue Collar Buzz and other interviews spotlighting REBNY.
    Join the Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies!…718-852-2808

    1. Ray stop trying to piggy back the campaign with your own agenda for your campaign company. You are not a building trades union member. We got this. Thank you.

  2. The only way to stop non union construction is to get Local 282 Concrete Mixer Driver’s to stop delivering the non union sites concrete. A simple social media search will show that all the big non union foundation guys get their concrete delivered by union drivers. Local 282 is the fuel that’s allowing this fire to grow. I am a proud 20 year member of IUOE Local 14. Stop 282 and we can get this city back.

  3. All these union guys are complaining about non unions, yet have non-union workers that want to get in the union and can’t. I’ve been trying to join local 3 for 4 years and still can’t get in. Maybe if you guys would let non union workers join the unions you’d be able to fight back against non union shops.

  4. Seriously folks, the money paid for union labor is chump change when it comes to Related pocketbook. But with that said, if the unions want Related to dig deep, the unions must deliver the goods. And that just ain’t happening. The unions have fumbled the ball by never making dead lines, very low quality work, shit work in many cases if we’re being honest, the list goes on. Bottom line, the unions did this to themselves, time to move over and lets see what non-union can do. Yours truly, the Duke of NY, A #1, Bruce B., aka, the Boss

    1. Harrumph.

      If there was quality work being rendered then developers would be fine. But there ain’t. Projects miss budget, miss schedule, miss competencies to be done correctly the first time. These are all inherent to the unions and benefits the unions and hurts the people. Stop being lazy #countmeout

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