The union representing thousands of doormen at the Big Apple’s ritziest residences reached a deal with a consortium of landlords Tuesday, averting a strike set to take effect this week.
After rounds of tense negotiations, 32BJ SEIU, the union representing 32,000 building services workers throughout New York City, announced that it had reached a tentative agreement with the Realty Advisory Board, which represents building owners in labor relations, on a new contract that guarantees a 12.6 percent raise over the next four years. That’s less than the union asked for, but still the largest raise in 32BJ history, honchos say. Members will also get a $3,000 bonus in recognition for their role as essential workers during the depths of the pandemic, and owing to the high rate of inflation and high cost of living in New York.
Furthermore, members will not be made to pay for health care out of their own pocket and will not be forced to cede vacation and sick days, both sticking points that landlords hoped to extract from the union.
“We have a deal,” 32BJ President Kyle Bragg said in a statement. “We got a deal done that protects healthcare, with no premium sharing. We got a deal done that protects paid time off. We got a deal done that provides the economic security our members need in a time of rising inflation. We got a deal done that our members have earned and deserved.”
“This contract honors the indispensable contributions that 32BJ members made throughout the pandemic and includes pay bonuses – a powerful recognition of our members’ sacrifice,” Bragg continued. “They were there, keeping our buildings running and our communities safe, when the city needed them most. 32BJ members are proud to show up to work every day and that includes tomorrow and the days ahead. I want to thank Howard Rothschild and our negotiating partners at the RAB for working in good faith and reaching a fair deal for both sides.”
Besides doormen, the new contract — which still must be approved by 32BJ members — also applies to supers, building managers, repair people, concierges, and porters. Those members work in buildings housing over 550,000 apartments and 1.5 million residents, the union says.
Realty Advisory Board president Howard Rothschild said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference that the deal was a testament to the real estate industry’s gratitude to the workers that kept the buildings running throughout the pandemic, even at the risk of their own health.
“As a result of that…we came through with the highest amount of an increase that we’ve ever done before” Rothschild said. “Much, much higher than the last agreement. They asked that their employees be acknowledged and rewarded, and we were more than happy to do that.”
“I’m proud that our industry and this union can serve as an example for how others can successfully negotiate collective bargaining agreements for everyone’s benefit,” he noted.
32BJ’s old contract is set to expire on Wednesday, April 20. As negotiations on a new contract broke down, the union threatened to go on strike last week, which would grind building services to a halt for the hundreds of thousands of tenants living in union-staffed apartment buildings. 10,000 members marched down Park Avenue last week demanding a fair contract, after which the union authorized a strike if a deal wasn’t reached.
The specter of unstaffed buildings proved a frightening thought for the denizens of the ritzy buildings where many 32BJ members work. That came to a head when many building management companies began asking residents to brace themselves to take out their own trash, collect their own deliveries, and live without 24/7 security. Some buildings even asked residents to sign up for volunteer shifts manning the front desk.
Bragg said at the press conference that beyond the risks to employees’ health, the job also became harder as tenants shifted to remote work, with the pace of deliveries increasing manifold. He said that 32BJ members were contracting the virus at a “maddening pace” and that some, like hospital workers, had to wear garbage bags and shed their work clothes upon their return home. He said that he feels the deal recognizes the sacrifices made by building employees.
“There’s give-and-take on both sides, but it’s an agreement that we’re all proud of,” Bragg said. “And I’m sure that their workforce, our members will be equally proud of what we’ve achieved.”