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New York City apartment building workers: Will they strike?

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It’s that time again! Negotiations 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 is in progress.

The negotiations for a new multi-year contract covering more the 30,000 apartment building workers began on March 13th between 32BJ and the Realty Advisory Board (RAB), an industry association representing most building owners in New York City. Failure to reach an agreement could lead to a strike directly affecting more than one million New Yorkers living in over 3,300 apartment, condo and co-op buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

More than 30,000 doormen and women, supers, resident managers, handypersons, concierges and porters working at apartment buildings throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island are affected.

Workers on the bargaining committee said getting a good contract was important for them and their families.

Talks focus on wages, healthcare, 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.

In the four years since the last contract, the consumer price index (CPI) in the New York City area has gone up by 10%.

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.

There is something called a "private handshake" whereby during the talks, if the two sides can't reach common ground, the union calls for a strike. Prior to that happening union reps reach out to buildings with an offer saying: “sign this private agreement, and your union employees will keep working - even during a strike. Once a settlement is reached, you'll be party to the new contract.”

The RAB disagrees with this practice and says that a "direct agreement between the union and a specific building" undermines its negotiating position - which ultimately hurts the coops and condos on whose behalf it negotiates. An RAB spokesperson stated in an e-mail: "Just like the union, the RAB relies on the support of its members, so these side agreements ultimately hurt the negotiating process and can undercut the management negotiating committee and employer solidarity."

Union 32BJ which is the largest property service union in the country has more than 145,000 members including New York City.

If there is a strike your building will likely send out information about their plans. If you live in a small building run by an individual landlord, ask how they plan to handle the strike should it happen.

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Ross Ellis is also the Examiner for:

National Parenting Examiner
NY Real Estate

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