Making New York Home: Frequently Asked Questions

What is 32BJ SEIU?

With more than 145,000 members, including 70,000 in New York City, 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country.

Who are 32BJ residential members?

We are the 30,000 doormen, porters, supers and handypersons who maintain New York’s apartment buildings.

Where do they work?

We work in over 3,300 buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. (Residential workers in the Bronx are covered by a separate contract.) We make the city home for over two million New Yorkers.

What do residential workers do?

Our job is more than standing in a building lobby: we watch kids, lend a hand when needed, assist elderly tenants, cut costs through green technology and years of experience, keep buildings clean and well-maintained, and safeguard people’s most valuable asset: their home.

When does the contract covering most New York residential workers expire?

Our contract expires on April 20, 2014. We are currently in negotiations with the Realty Advisory Board (RAB).

What do you want from your new contract?

— We want a fair wage increase
— We want to maintain health benefits and continue to provide cost effective quality health care
— We want to protect our pension and continue funding secure retirement benefits
— We want to continue training and legal benefits
— We want to improve working conditions and paid leave

What do you consider a fair wage increase?

We are fighting to keep up with rising costs so that we can continue to make New York home for ourselves and our families. The New York City median income for a family of four is $51,865; our residential members who work in class A buildings make $44,389 a year. Most of us are just getting by, and many of us have to work second jobs. New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world, and costs are rising every year. Everyday costs have increased since our last negotiation: a gallon of milk is up 33%, a pound of meat is up 21%, a Metrocard costs 22% more, a cup of coffee is up 19%, and a movie ticket costs 20% more.

In addition, the residential real estate market has fully recovered from the recession, and is incredibly strong in both rentals and sales. Average rents broke $3000 for the first time; the average was $3,153 a month in the third quarter 2013, with an average occupancy rate of 97.6%. Rents in New York City in 2014 are projected to be 23% higher than in 2010, and doorman buildings in Manhattan command a rental premium of 18-35% over other elevator apartment buildings depending on apartment size.

But that’s just Manhattan. What about Queens and Staten Island and Brooklyn?

We stand united across the five boroughs. We consider the rates established in our contract a floor, not a ceiling. It’s important that a minimum is set across the city so that residential building workers are able to earn enough to stay in the city they serve.

What are you fighting for around healthcare?

We stand by the fundamental importance of access to affordable, quality healthcare, and contribute through a co-pay structure that encourages the most cost-effective, quality care. We will fight for the healthcare we deserve. With health care costs accounting for a majority of personal bankruptcies, and a substantial percentage of adults burdened by medical debt, financial stability is impossible without access to health care.

What do you want in terms of pensions?

We will fight for retirement security. Residential building workers work hard and should be able to retire in the city they made home for so many others for so many years. Without retirement security, the elderly too often live in poverty and struggle to survive, depending on services ultimately paid for by taxpayers. Our members are proud not to be a burden but instead contributors to their local economies.

Will your members being going on strike?

We want a fair contract that provides decent wages and good benefits, and a strike is always a last resort. We hope the employers will not demand concessions that would require us to take this gravely serious step.