Gary LaBarbera’s official job title is President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (BCTC). Lately, his job has been to defend the indefensible.
“We live in New York. It’s very expensive to live here. We take great pride in the work that we do. And the work rules are there to make sure we stay alive.”
That was LaBarbera’s response to a New York Times reporter who showed that union work rules massively inflate the cost of the New York City subway—to the detriment of riders. LaBarbera further offered that construction workers should make even more money than they do currently.
As the Times pointed out, New York isn’t getting much of a safety return on its investment:
“Statistics suggest that the labor deals multiply costs while doing little to boost safety. During the Second Avenue subway project, for example, there were 5.5 safety incidents for every 200,000 work hours, according to federal data. The national average is 3.2. The Silver Line in Washington, which cost just $300 million per mile, had an even lower rate of incidents.”
This status quo is kept it place due to a cozy relationship between Governor Cuomo and the unions that LaBarbera represents. The Times reports that Governor Cuomo has received more than $1 million in contributions from construction unions during his time in office.
This isn’t the first time that LaBarbera has found himself under intense scrutiny. Earlier in his career, LaBarbera defended the son of an “admitted Mafia bag man” who collected $500,000 for a no-show job. LaBarbera was forced to settle charges with his own union that he allowed an employer “to skirt payments to worker benefit funds.”
LaBarbera has also been accused by the NAACP of “misleading” New Yorkers on the lack of racial diversity in construction unions. Not only does union leadership remain overwhelmingly white and male, but black union construction workers earn 20 percent less on average than their white counterparts.