In a move that could likely increase labor’s hold on building work around the city, construction unions will push Mayor Bill de Blasio to hire more New Yorkers for infrastructure and economic-development projects.
The proposal, by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, is set to be unveiled Thursday at a City Council hearing on workforce development. It will urge that New York City residents work at least 30% of hours on large projects and will include goals for groups including women and those who come from low-income areas.
In exchange for bringing jobs to more New Yorkers, unions want the city to set wages and benefits on those projects at union levels—and require workers to come through a state-certified apprentice program. That would make it harder for nonunion contractors to undercut union ones in winning projects.
“We’ve talked about for many years how the building trades can bring more people in from the community,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building Trades Council.
The city can’t require local hiring across the board, but it can include its goals in requests for proposals from developers and in labor agreements, union officials said. It can also make it a stated policy of its Office of Workforce Development, they said.
Experts said the move could help ensure unions remain relevant as the city’s development focus shifts to low-income housing.
The unions are joined in their push by a number of liberal, low-income advocacy groups such as ALIGN: The Alliance for Greater New York and New York Communities for Change. That will put pressure on the mayor who won’t want rising costs to stymie affordable-housing production.
“Helping local residents access union apprenticeships can help entire families move into the middle class,” a mayoral spokesman said. “We look forward to reviewing the proposal and continuing our discussions with these groups.”
Projects that could be affected, if they seek additional subsidies from the city, include Astoria Cove, a 2.2 million-square-foot development on the Queens waterfront, and Essex Crossing, a residential, retail and office development on the Lower East Side.
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