**STRIKE AVERTED** Tentative New Union Contract Reached for 20,000 NYC Commercial Cleaners

Simon Davis-Cohen



**STRIKE AVERTED** Tentative New Union Contract Reached for 20,000 NYC Commercial Cleaners

Midnight accord includes historic wage increases, protects all existing benefits, avoids two tier system, improves pensions, among other gains, following strike vote in Midtown Manhattan last week

New York, NY — Just after midnight this morning (12:50 AM), a bargaining committee composed of 32BJ SEIU members who clean New York City commercial building offices, transportation hubs and universities and union officers reached a tentative agreement with the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations. Pending ratification votes in the coming weeks, the new agreement will offer 20,000 commercial building service workers the biggest wage increases in 32BJ history over the course of four years, bonuses, the continuation of vital health benefits, improved retirement benefits for the first time in 15 years, among other gains.


The tentative agreement prevented an industry-wide strike in New York City, which was authorized to begin as early as January 1, just after the current agreement expires at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The new agreement will come into full effect if members vote to ratify the agreement via mail.


 The tentative agreement secures:

  • Maintenance of healthcare benefits with no premium sharing
  • The protection of the bargaining unit and future hires (no two tier workforce)
  • Historic wage increases of +$149/week (+$3.725/hour) by the end of the four year contract
  • A $3,000 bonus (paid on March 22) 
  • A 10% pension improvement for 32BJ commercial members, the equivalent of up to an additional $140 per month during retirement (this will also benefit the union’s 33,000 New York Metro residential members)
  • A limited voluntary early retirement program that offers a $20,000 401k contribution, an additional 5% pension improvement, termination pay, and the extension of healthcare benefits up to the age of 65 – for commercial members 60 years old and up and with 15 years of service
  • Juneteenth as an elective holiday
  • Strengthened anti-discrimination protections, including for pregnant workers
  • “Sign One, Sign All” language that commits union contractors in New York City to local labor standards across the nation

Media availability in lieu of previously planned marches at Bryant and Zuccotti parks.


The tentative agreement comes a week after 10,000 32BJ members rallied on 6th Ave. and voted to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike. Following the vote, hundreds of 32BJ members mobilized daily for practice picket actions outside their workplaces.


“It is fitting that we are closing out a year marked by worker mobilization with a victory for 20,000 working New Yorkers who form the backbone of this city’s economy and commercial real estate market,” said 32BJ President Manny Pastreich. “The path to this tentative agreement was not easy. 32BJ members mobilized with intention this year and marched, 10,000-strong, up midtown to make crystal clear their priorities. And today we found a common path forward with the RAB that rewards workers appropriately and meets the moment for the New York City commercial real estate industry. We won a strong agreement that moves working New Yorkers forward. We appreciate Howard Rothschild’s leadership and good faith bargaining.”


“We’re proud to come to an agreement that reflects the economic realities that commercial real estate faces by creating the flexibility the industry needs to survive for the long-term. Thank you to Manny Pastriech and the entire 32BJ team for working with us to find solutions that will benefit our workers and our industry,” said RAB President Howard Rothschild.


“We adapted to the pandemic in the workplace, and over the past year we mobilized with our co-workers, preparing ourselves for a real fight,” said 32BJ bargaining committee member and 18-year cleaner Dulce Martinez. “We were ready. And we showed that we were ready at our buildings and in the streets, sending a message that any changes to this industry would not be made on the backs of us, the essential workers who show up everyday, regardless of global pandemics or hurricanes. We let that be known. And I’m happy to say we have a tentative agreement that reflects all that we have been through and the hard work we do every single day.”


“The pension improvements are big,” said 32BJ bargaining committee member and 16-year cleaner Drita Gjidoda. “There are so many workers who can’t afford to retire these days, so getting these pension improvements is a significant win that will allow more working people to retire with dignity.”


“Thinking back to the pandemic, when the subways were empty, when it was scary going to work – many of us, including myself – went to work with preexisting conditions. We saw co-workers go home sick, and we never saw them again. These were our friends. We got sick ourselves.  This contract campaign was a big deal for us after all we have been through as a collective,” said 32BJ bargaining committee member and 37-year cleaner Ena Softley. “Today we showed that when working people come together, lives and jobs improve.”


“This year was a test – we have now successfully negotiated contracts for 70,000 commercial building service workers up and down the East Coast, successfully defending and expanding the legacy of the Justice for Janitors movement,” continued 32BJ President Manny Pastreich. “We fought back a two tier wage system that would have been a blow to the future of this movement and the strength in our unity. That was an important line in the sand that we drew, and refused to cross.”



With more than 175,000 members in 12 states, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country. 32BJ SEIU represents over 80,000 building service workers in NYC, including 20,000 commercial office cleaners. 32BJ SEIU members hail from 64 different countries and speak 28 different languages.

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