All images courtesy of 32BJ SEIU
Tens of thousands of doormen and other residential building service workers in New York City could go on strike if a deal is not reached on a new collective bargaining agreement by April 20. Members of the union 32BJ SEIU on Wednesday voted to authorize the committee to call for a strike if the Realty Advisory Board (RAB) does not create a new contract for the city’s 32,000 building workers with fair wage increases and full employer-paid healthcare. The strike authorization followed a rally of nearly 10,000 32BJ SEIU members down Park Avenue.
32BJ’s union contract covers door attendants, porters, concierges, handypersons, and superintendents in thousands of properties across the city. According to the union, the strike would impact over 3,000 buildings and 555,000 apartments across the city.
32BJ and RAB renewed their bargaining on April 12 and are set to renegotiate on April 14, as first reported by The City. One of the biggest issues being contested is a proposal that would cut workers’ paid vacation and sick time and a separate proposal that would make workers contribute to their own health insurance. Currently, workers don’t pay anything for family health insurance premiums.
Workers are seeking a wage increase tied to inflation and no changes to the current health care. Union members say the new proposals are a step backward, especially after residential service workers were essential during the pandemic.
“Healthcare is a cornerstone of 32BJ. It’s a strike issue,” Kyle Bragg, president of 32BJ SEIU, said. “The building owners want us to take money out of our paycheck to pay for healthcare every month, whether we use it or not. We will not stand for premium sharing and we will not stand for anything that disrespects the time and work our members have given over the past two years.”
Bragg continued: “We’ve had to fight for every single thing we have in our union contract: paid days off, health care, workplace protection, a pension. This is no exception. We are thankful for the support of all our allies and partners as we fight for a just city and stand with us as part of that fight.”
Wednesday’s rally was attended by a handful of New York Democrats, including Sen. Chuck Schumer and Gov. Kathy Hochul, who came in support of the efforts of the building service workers.
In a tweet, Hochul said: “Building service workers stepped up, day after day, during the pandemic. The members of 32BJ SEIU deserve the wages they’ve earned and need to provide for their families. My administration has your back.”
The city’s business service workers have not gone on strike since 1991, a work stoppage that lasted 12 days.
Howard Rothschild, President of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, addressed the 32BJ SEIU’s strike authorization: “The strike authorization vote happens every four years and does not mean a strike will occur. It simply allows 32BJ the option to strike, should we be unable to reach an agreement.”
Rothschild continued: “The RAB has proposed fair and reasonable wage increases, as well as the sharing of healthcare costs through employee contributions to the premiums, of which employees currently pay zero. Our relationship with the union has resulted in more than 30 years of uninterrupted labor peace and we continue to work towards that same goal this year.”
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