Gary LaBarbera

Gary LaBarbera


Gary LaBarbera

President at Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and New York State Building Trades Council

Last year's rank: 80

Gary LaBarbera
By May 10, 2024 9:00 AM

It has been a challenging 14 months for the construction industry. Few workers have struggled more during the pandemic than construction workers, roughly 100,000 of whom are represented by the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.

The amount of proposed new construction in the five boroughs reached its lowest level in a decade in early 2021, according to the Real Estate Board of New York, presaging a significant slowdown in construction work.

“We’re still fairly busy from the work that was ongoing,” said Gary LaBarbera, citing the construction of new terminals at John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports as well as the Javits Center expansion. “What I think is going to happen with the timing of both [city and state] capital plans — the infrastructure bill — I think it’s very possible that in the first or second quarter of next year, they’re could be a gap [in construction work]. I’m fairly confident that quarters three and four of 2022 will be better.”

Ultimately, fewer new projects mean less work for Building Trades members, putting an even more intense focus on the union’s advocacy work. LaBarbera, for example, has been pushing for a legislative crackdown on contractors who illegally withhold pay. The new bill would make it easier for construction laborers to sue contractors for lost or missing wages, by shifting the legal liability for wages withheld by subcontractors onto contractors.

The BCTC also negotiated a new project labor agreement with Mayor Bill de Blasio last August. It requires the city to hire at least 15 percent of construction workers on its projects from lower-income neighborhoods and public housing. It allows the union as well to provide more apprentices on public construction sites, and sets aside specific slots in the union apprenticeship program for residents of lower-income communities and public housing.

Amid the pandemic, LaBarbera also quietly took over the helm of the state’s Building and Construction Trades Council in January. Federal prosecutors indicted the group’s former president on charges of fraud, racketeering and bribery last October, along with eight other construction union officials.

At the state level, LaBarbera negotiated labor-friendly terms for the construction of wind farms, solar farms and other renewable energy sources, including prevailing wage agreements, a labor peace agreement, and a “Buy American” incentive for developers to use domestic steel and iron.