Gary LaBarbera has served since 2009 as president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, an organization comprising local affiliates of 15 national and international unions representing 100,000 working men and women in New York City. In 2021, Mr. LaBarbera was elected President of the New York State Building and Construction Trades Council, which is comprised of 15 local building trades councils, 12 district councils and state associations, and 135 local unions and represents 200,000 tradespeople across the entire state.
Since assuming his position as President of the New York City Building Trades, Mr. LaBarbera has embarked on ambitious negotiations for project labor agreements (PLA) to provide labor cost savings to advance major public and private projects at risk of stalling due to the economic recession.
These efforts have resulted in excess of $100 billion in public sector project labor agreements with the City of New York and the New York City School Construction Authority, saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. This includes a landmark PLA with the New York City Housing Authority that is providing men and women across the five boroughs with a path to middle-class careers in the building trades through their pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs, as well as a monumental PLA with the City of New York that connects individuals from low-income neighborhoods to union pre-apprenticeship and direct-entry programs, leading to an estimated $1 billion in wages and benefits for target communities during the first full year of the program. Mr. LaBarbera also forged a historic agreement with the City as part of its Build It Back program that ensured Sandy-impacted residents represented no less than 20% of those employed in rebuilding efforts.
In addition to his work with the public sector, Mr. LaBarbera has helped bring approximately $100 billion of private work under project labor agreements in New York City, creating tens of thousands of union construction jobs in the process.
Under Mr. LaBarbera’s leadership, the building trades have become a model of inclusivity – with the majority of New York City’s union construction workers now being minority men and women. Mr. LaBarbera continues to work to expand these opportunities to every corner of the city, launching the Apprenticeship Readiness Collective to enhance access to union apprenticeship programs in historically marginalized communities and forging alliances with community groups.
Prior to his tenure as president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, Mr. LaBarbera served organized labor in several other capacities, including as president of the New York City Central Labor Council, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Joint Council 16, and president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 282.
Having been actively involved in the Teamsters since the early 1980s, Mr. LaBarbera was one of the first members of Local 282 to graduate from the Labor Studies Program at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations in 1994.
Mr. LaBarbera is founder and chairman of the board of the New York City chapter of Helmets to Hardhats, an organization that has placed over 1,100 veterans in careers in the construction industry across the five boroughs since 2013. He also is president and chief executive officer of the Edward J. Malloy Initiative for Construction Skills, which has placed more than 2,100 individuals from underserved areas throughout New York City into apprentice programs.
Mr. LaBarbera is currently a vice president of the New York City Central Labor Council, a vice president of the New York State AFL-CIO, and a vice chairman of the New York Building Congress. He serves on the New York City Regional Economic Development Council and the Exploited Worker Task Force as an appointee of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Mr. LaBarbera was nominated by Governor Cuomo to the Port Authority Board of Commissioners in 2017, serving on the Operations Committee. And, in 2020, Mr. LaBarbera was appointed to Governor Cuomo’s New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board.
Mr. LaBarbera has championed worker safety and protections for both union and non-union construction workers during his leadership of the building trades, leading the charge in 2017 to pass Local Law 196, which according to the NYC Department of Buildings, has led to a significant decline of 26% in worksite injuries. In 2019, Mr. LaBarbera was a chief advocate in support of “Carlos’ Law” to enhance worker protections and worksite accountability.
Moving forward, under the direction of Mr. LaBarbera, the building trades will play a leading role in addressing challenges shaping the country’s future, including the development and revitalization of its critical infrastructure and efforts to support the state recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Mr. LaBarbera was successful in enshrining into law critical labor standards, including prevailing wage standards, on all large-scale renewable energy projects across New York State, ensuring a just transition for New York’s working men and women in the renewable energy industry. Mr. LaBarbera will continue to focus on introducing new innovations to the construction industry that will drive continued growth and ensure the organization’s affiliated unions remain equipped to successfully compete in a rapidly changing environment.
In addition to his numerous business commitments, Mr. LaBarbera is actively involved in several charities and educational programs and is a member of the board of directors of the Ronald McDonald House and the Metropolitan Outreach Project.
Hear from Gary during the panel on A Conversation with Labor Leaders at 11:35 am. Follow along on social @NYCBldgTrades.