New York, NY – Thousands of 32BJ members were joined by union leaders, elected officials and community activists in a march on Park Avenue to demand a fair contract for the 30,000 doormen and women, superintendents, resident managers, handypersons, concierges and porters who work in 3,300 buildings throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
The massive rally took place in the context of record breaking rents and sale prices for the city’s real estate industry. Apartment building workers make New York home for 2 million tenants, and they took to the streets Wednesday evening in the hopes of getting a contract that will allow them to continue to make New York home for themselves and their families.
The thousands-strong rally, which included 32BJ members as well as non-union workers, demonstrated how much support there is to maintain good jobs that provide a path to the middle class in New York City.
“It has become more and more difficult to keep up with high rents and the cost of living,” said Donald Killings, a 32BJ member who works as a doorman in Manhattan. “A fair contract would help us better serve millions of residents while making New York our home as well.”
Negotiations for a new contract began on February 27 between the Realty Advisory Board (RAB), an industry association representing most building owners in New York City, and 32BJ. The union’s bargaining committee is comprised of elected leaders of 32BJ including many rank and file members, who have been chosen to represent all 30,000 residential members. Members authorized this committee to agree to a deal for the membership to ratify or to strike if a fair deal cannot be reached. The next bargaining session is April 8.
“Today thousands of hardworking men and women were joined by our brothers and sisters in the labor movement and elected officials who stand for good jobs and understand the meaning of solidarity. Every day, residential building workers make New York home for more than 2 million people. They are the backbone of hundreds of families. I am confident that we will win a strong contract because our membership has remained united, and the real estate industry is doing well,” said Hector Figueroa, President, 32BJ SEIU.
The building workers want a raise that keeps up with the cost of living. They also want to maintain affordable health care coverage and secure retirement benefits.
“As a single father of three including one in college,” said Napoleon Alston, a 32BJ member who works as a porter in Brooklyn, “better wages, job protection and secured health benefits would allow me to provide a better life for my kids.”
32BJ was joined by several labor leaders at the rally.
“Today’s rally represents the best of a unified labor movement demanding fair wages for honest work. Workers have come together across various industries to support our 32BJ brothers and sisters, and we are all here standing up for a fair contract that will keep up with the cost of living, while also maintaining good benefits and workplace respect. We are fighting to grow and maintain good, middle class jobs in our city, and we are resolved to stand with 32BJ for as long as it takes to ensure that all workers – unionized and non-unionized – get what they need and deserve to make it in New York City,” said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council.
“The New York City labor movement stands in solidarity with our city’s residential building workers. Five years into the economic recovery the real estate market is booming, but the workers who serve that industry are still struggling. They provide safe and clean housing for so many of our families and they deserve a contract that allows them to bring prosperity home to their families as well,” said George Miranda, President, Teamsters Joint Council 16.
“We join our brothers and sisters of SEIU 32BJ in their efforts to collectively bargain for what all workers in New York City’s building services deserve: middle class wages, health insurance, retirement security, safe working conditions and the basic level of decency that any employer would expect for itself,” said Gary La Barbera, President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.
Dozens of the city’s elected officials also joined the march.
“One way to stop the trend of rising income inequality is ensuring jobs such as those performed by 32BJ members provide fair wages. I stand in solidarity with residential workers because it’s important for our city’s economic growth that they maintain the benefits and protections they have so adamantly fought for so long,” said Letitia James, Public Advocate.
“Building workers keep Manhattan humming. They deserve a fair contract. And, building owners should commit to wages that don’t undermine workers or the larger economy,” said Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President.
“32BJ does an outstanding job of representing and fighting for working New Yorkers. 32BJ members go to work every day to make New York City a better home for others who live here and we need to make sure that these workers can continue to make New York City a home for themselves as well,” said Melissa Mark-Viverito, New York City Council Speaker.
32BJ was also joined by other elected officials including Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., New York City Council Members Margaret Chin, Daneek Miller, Ruben Wills, Elizabeth Crowley, Donovan Richards, Rafael Espinal, Carlos Menchaca, Corey Johnson, Ben Kallos, Mark Levine, Andrew Cohen, Ritchie Torres, Vanessa Gibson, Julissa Ferreras, Costa Constantinides, Mark Weprin, Rory Lancman, Jimmy Van Bramer, Eugene Mathieu, Jumaane Williams, Alan Maisel, Mark Treyger and Brad Lander. New York State Senators Brad Hoylman, Jose Serrano, Adriano Espaillat and Gustavo Rivera attended the demonstration. Also in attendance were Assembly Members Edward Braunstein, Michael Miller, Walter Mosley, Linda Rosenthal, Keith Wright and Luis Sepulveda.
With more than 145,000 members, including 70,000 in New York City, 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country.