32BJ’s demands: fair wage increases, protecting quality health care, strengthening protections on the job
New York– The city’s commercial office cleaners opened contract negotiations today on one of the biggest private sector contracts in the country. The more than 22,000 members of 32BJ SEIU covered under the contract are bargaining with the Realty Advisory Board, representing the commercial real estate industry and commercial cleaning contractors.
“New York remains a prime location for major corporations around the world, and new development is booming. Corporations are raking in major profits, and the industry remains strong. The 22,000 cleaners that keep this city running should be able to benefit from the strength of the industry, and maintain their toehold on the middle class,” said Kyle Bragg, president of SEIU 32BJ. “We know that a strong contract helps build a strong economy for our communities.”
These workers clean iconic buildings in New York City like the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center buildings and Rockefeller Center, global headquarters for corporate powerhouses like Metlife and Goldman Sachs, as well as major offices for companies like Google and Facebook. The good jobs they fight for allow these cleaners to secure a better future for their families and to build a more prosperous society for all working families in our city.
With a booming commercial real estate industry with near record-setting rents, cleaners at the bargaining table are calling for a new four-year contract that increases wages so they can keep up with a rising cost of living as they raise their families, protect their vital health and retirement benefits and improve working conditions.
“We take care of these buildings and it makes us very proud. Millions of New Yorkers who work in these office buildings go home to happy families, and we need the same in exchange for taking care of them,” said Ena Softley, who works as a cleaner at 3 Times Square and is a member of the bargaining committee. “We should be able to live in the same city where we work.”
At the opening of bargaining, the cleaners presented their proposals, including: maintaining their employer-paid family health care benefits along with their pension and employer 401k contributions; a wage increase that will keep up with the rising cost of supporting their families in New York City; and increased job protections.
“My union health insurance is crucial for me,” said Kristinia Bellamy, who works as a cleaner at 919 Third Avenue and is part of the bargaining committee. “I am a breast cancer survivor, and I have to take a pill that costs $500 per prescription. If I wasn’t covered, I don’t know how I would afford that, even with a good salary. A lot of us worry about what could happen to us without our union health insurance.”
The current commercial cleaning contract expires on December 31.
With 175,000 members in twelve states and Washington, D.C., including 85,000 in New York City, 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country.