New York, NY–Today was the second bargaining session for a new, multi-year contract 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 negotiations are taking place in a very different climate than the last one in 2010 when the economic recovery was still in its beginning phase. Today the real estate industry is doing very well and the wealthy are prospering — Wall Street bonuses this year are estimated at their highest level since 2008. After a decade in which working families lost ground and a greater number fell into poverty and even homelessness, workers are feeling more confident to fight for better lives for themselves and their families.
“This contract is an opportunity to maintain a middle class in this city,” said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU. “Our members, like all New Yorkers, are facing rising rents and increases in the cost of living. As they make New York home for 2 million residents, we want to make sure they also can continue to call New York home.”
“Some of the RAB’s proposals show that the real estate industry is aware that they play an important role in maintaining this city’s hard working middle class,” Figueroa continued. “There are others that would not benefit working families and undermine the very jobs they say they are committed to. We will continue to talk with the RAB to make sure that we have the same understanding of what it takes to live in such an expensive city. It is early in the process, but our members are prepared to fight for themselves, their families and their communities.”
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.
“Maintaining a decent standard of living and respect for 30,000 workers not only benefits those workers and their families but also the communities they live in where they play important social and economic roles,” said Figueroa.
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.
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.
Talks to Resume on March 24
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 24.
With more than 145,000 members, including 70,000 in New York City, 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country.
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