Frequently Asked Questions
With more than 175,000 members, we are the largest union of property service workers in the U.S. We are concentrated in the Northeast – in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Washington, D.C. – but our reach extends to southern Florida. We work primarily as cleaners, property maintenance workers, doormen, security officers, window cleaners, building engineers, and school and food service workers, and airport workers.
Our mission is to build and grow a diverse, effective, politically independent and democratic organization of workers to change our lives for the better, improve our communities, and build a more just society for present and future generations.
We recognize our successes and learn from our setbacks. We strive to be strategic, organized, inclusive, honest, respectful, optimistic and confident.
Our name comes from the merger of two New York City unions of building service workers. Men formed Local 32-B in 1934 and women formed Local 32-J in 1936. Both were part of what was then called the Building Service Employees International Union (BSEIU), which first organized in Chicago. SEIU dropped the B in 1968, as a sign of organizing workers beyond the building services, or what we now call property services. And in 1977, 32-B and 32-J merged to form 32BJ, because, then, as now, workers knew that our strength is in our unity.
While every clause in the contract has information a member should understand, these provisions are particularly important to know:
- Benefits: Employers pay for 32BJ members’ benefits because by being united in the union, workers have the power to insist that they do. The contract lists how much employers are required to pay for 32BJ members’ benefits. Member dues do not pay for benefits! It easy to find out what you have. Click here to enter your worksite address and get all the details on your benefits.
- Seniority: A member’s seniority is of utmost importance. You should understand the various articles in your contract where seniority is relevant. These include, but are not limited to, vacations, layoff and recall, bumping rights and termination pay.
- Time off: Each contract has specific rules for granting members time off for vacations, holidays, sick days, leaves of absence, etc. Members should be familiar with the amount of time they are entitled to, the seniority provisions that apply and the specific days allowed.
- Time off provisions that are important to know are:
- Sick leave
- Personal days
- Leaves of absence
- New parent leave for pregnancy and adoption
- Bereavement leave when a close family member dies
- Family and medical leave
- Workers’ compensation and disability leave
- Union shop: The “union shop” provision in the contract requires that all employees pay dues to the union, or the appropriate “agency fee,” after their 30th day of work. This is a condition of employment under our contract. Workers who do not meet this requirement can be terminated.
- Wages: Wage rates for each job category covered by the contract are listed in the contract. Members need to be familiar with the proper wage rates for workers at their worksite, as well as the dates on which they are effective.
Dues pay for the programs and work that give 32BJ members the strength to win good contracts, to organize nonunion workers into our ranks and to have a greater say in public life.
- Contract negotiations. 32BJ puts the skills and resources of the entire union to work to negotiate the best contracts possible. This includes a bargaining team of union officers and member-leaders, with attorneys, researchers, union representatives, organizers and communications staff to back them up. Bargaining strong contracts also often requires staff who can mobilize members in workplaces, hold rallies and events to build community support and put pressure on employers so workers win strong contracts.
- Contract enforcement. We also need union representatives coming to worksites, researchers, attorneys and others to help members enforce their contract.
- Grievance and arbitration. All 32BJ contracts include a grievance and arbitration procedure that helps workers enforce the contract and protect members’ rights on the job.
- Training. for stewards and other member-leaders, elected union officers and staff makes sure everyone has the skills and information we need to keep building a strong union.
- Organizing. Bringing nonunion workers into the union improves jobs and maintains industry standards. Everyone needs a good job. 32BJ members have benefited from workers who organized their worksites in the past. We pass that forward – and we recognize that there is no such thing as good jobs for some. If some workers in our industry are vulnerable, we all are because eventually low-paying competition drives down standards for everyone. 32BJ members’ strength depends on our ability to keep growing by organizing new workers into our ranks.
- Political action. Elected officials pass laws that affect workers and our families. That’s why it is so important to get out the vote and to hold politicians accountable for the decisions they make.
- Legal expertise. Experienced labor attorneys help protect our rights on the job, at grievance hearings and during contract negotiations.
- Communications with members, leaders, officers, stewards and activists helps keep everyone informed.
- Public outreach helps 32BJ members to build outside support in tough bargaining or organizing situations.
- Membership in SEIU, our international union, and state and local labor federations. We’re all stronger when we work together on issues that affect all union members and when we support each other in organizing and bargaining campaigns.
Call the 32BJ Benefit Funds’ Member Services Department at 1-800-551-3225 (Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.) with any and all questions about your benefits. There also is a lot of useful information – including an easy way to get a list of your benefits just by entering the address of your worksite – on the website of the 32BJ Benefit Funds.
Each contract spells out a series of steps to resolve problems with management and to protect members’ rights. A grievance procedure guards 32BJ members from unfair discipline or harassment on the job. Workers without a union are at the mercy of their employer and have no process by which to protect their rights. A grievance is a form of a complaint. Grievances are defined in your contract. So while they are not exactly the same from agreement to agreement, they usually include violations of:
- Any of the rights spelled out in your contract
- Certain laws
- The employer’s own rules
- Past practice (This protects workers from employers suddenly changing the way they’ve been doing things for years.)
A union member files a grievance when there has been a violation on the job that the grievance procedure covers and the problem can’t be resolved without a formal process. Every contract includes a grievance procedure.
By law unions can’t use dues money to make contributions to elect federal candidates. In order to build our union’s political power, we have to raise money from members that is not dues money. For this reason, Local 32BJ created the 32BJ American Dream Fund (ADF). Participation in the 32BJ American Dream Fund is completely voluntary.