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Trades Sign Historic Agreement in New York City

The new PLA sets new guidelines for bringing in the next generation of skilled union tradesmen

Kris LaGrange's picture
Aug 14, 2020

New York City is one of the most heavily unionized cities in the country and much of the construction that is done is union. For countless families, these union jobs have brought them into the middle class, bought them houses, paid for their children to go to college or provided them with an apprenticeship and career in the Trades. With a new project labor agreement(PLA) that was recently signed between the City of New York and the New York City Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC), even more families will get to benefit from an expansion of union work.

The historic agreement covers renovation work on city-owned properties as well as future work in this area. What makes it historic is that both sides agreed to a guarantee that the unions will “prioritize referral” of workers who are from low-income zip codes. Low-income zip code is described as an area where 15% of the population lives below the federal poverty line or the worker is currently a resident of public housing. The goal is to get 30% of the hours worked on these projects done by workers from these zip codes. According to Mayor Bill DeBlasio, the deal is expected to create 26,000 construction jobs.

“Many of these communities were also among those hardest hit by the COVID crisis, and these are communities that needed good job opportunities before the crisis,” said Deputy Mayor Phillip Thompson. “A good job in my mind is the best kind of anti-poverty program. And genuine opportunity is the best way to fight despair and to reduce crime.”

While there historically have been complaints that it is difficult for people of color to get into the building trades that has been changing for decades, especially in New York. Agreements like this help to spur the effort to bring in new people from varying communities. With many union members no longer living in low-income zip codes or public housing, the hope is that this PLA will result in thousands of new apprentices and future full-fledged tradesmen from these communities.

At a press conference announcing the deal, NYC BCTC President Gary LaBarbera said the agreement should “serve as a model for the nation. This agreement is different than any other project labor agreement we've ever done with the City of New York" because it is "a commitment by the city to make an investment, billions and billions of dollars into community hiring. It will structure through New York City's WorkForce One a recruitment system where individuals from underserved or impoverished communities will have access to our pre-apprentice programs and our apprentice programs. The real opportunity in a union construction job is not just a job -- it is a career."

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