New York, NY–Negotiations for a new, multi-year contract began today between the Realty Advisory Board (RAB), an industry association representing most building owners in New York City and 32BJ SEIU, the largest private sector union in New York. The contract covers 30,000 doormen and women, superintendents, resident managers, handypersons, concierges and porters working at apartment buildings throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
“These workers make New York home for more than two million tenants every day” said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU. “With rents and the cost of living rising every year, we want to make sure that these hard working men and women can make New York their home as well.”
Workers on the bargaining committee said getting a good contract was important for them and their families.
“The residents know us and they trust us. There’s a relationship there,” said Donald McCaffrey, a porter in Flushing, Queens. “We are able to take care of them because, through our contract, we can take care of ourselves and our families.”
Talks Focus on Wages, Health Care, Pensions and Training
Major issues include fair wage increases to keep up with the rising cost of living, maintaining affordable family health care and ensuring adequate funds for training and retirement.
“A fair contract would be in everyone’s interest,” said Figueroa. “One way to change our tale of two cities is by making sure the jobs like those performed by our members continue to provide decent pay and good benefits.”
Not easy raising a family on $44K a year in NYC
In the four years since the last contract, the consumer price index (CPI) in the New York City area has gone up by 10%. Costs for some everyday items have skyrocketed – milk is up 33%, meat jumped by 21% and MetroCards rose by 22% since 2010.
“My rent just went up, from year to year it’s been growing. It can be tough,” said Eugene Amankwah, a doorman in Manhattan.
Real Estate Industry Has Done Well in the Past Four Years
Prices for co-op and condo sales have risen by 16% in the past year, surpassing $1.5 million on average in the last quarter of 2013. At the same time, vacancy rates are extremely low, according to the most recent data available. The rate citywide was 2.4% in the third quarter of 2013, and even lower in neighborhoods with a high concentration of doormen — 0.5% on the upper East Side and less than 2% on the upper West Side. Rents surpassed an average of $3,000 a month for the first time ever.
Some of the 32BJ’s labor and community allies were present at today’s bargaining session.
“I was proud to be part of today’s opening bargaining session where the union made a compelling case for a fair and deserving contract for its hard-working members,” said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “The membership of 32BJ is comprised of dedicated, skilled professionals, who take pride in the work they do to maintain the homes of the residents in buildings around our city. I am confident that a fair deal can be reached that recognizes the important contributions they make to the lives of more than two million New Yorkers.”
Talks to Resume on March 13th
Failure to reach an agreement by April 20th could lead to a strike directly affecting more than two million New Yorkers living in 3,300 apartment buildings across the city. The next bargaining session will take place March 13.
With more than 145,000 members, including 75,000 in New York City, 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country.
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