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Temperature Rising as Service Workers’ Strike Deadline Looms

Bill Morris in Building Operations on April 11, 2022

New York City

Contract talks, 32BJ, building service employees, Realty Advisory Board, co-ops and condos.
April 11, 2022

With a strike deadline looming on April 20, negotiators for building owners and the union representing building service employees are turning up the temperature.

The Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations (RAB), which represents co-op and condo boards and rental landlords, has circulated a memo to members urging them not to sign a so-called Me Too Agreement as the strike deadline approaches. The memo states: “Me Too Agreements essentially provide that in the event of a strike by 32BJ, your building(s) will not be struck, so long as you agree to all of the union’s proposals for a new contract — such as agreeing to the higher wage rates demanded by 32BJ. These agreements also could state that if the ultimate RAB-32BJ new collective bargaining agreement is more favorable than the terms offered in the Me Too Agreement, you’ll get the better terms. We strongly urge you NOT to sign these agreements as doing so weakens the solidarity of the RAB membership and greatly harms our bargaining position.”

Meanwhile, Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union has circulated its own memo to members urging them to attend a mass rally on April 13. The memo states that “little progress” was made at the fourth bargaining session, even though wage proposals, traditionally a big sticking point, are not yet on the table. “However,” the memo states, “after the deadliest health crisis in our lifetimes, (the RAB) is still asking us to pay into our healthcare. UNBELIEVABLE!” Under the current four-year contract, employers cover all health costs for union members and their families.

The union memo notes that numerous issues other than healthcare premiums are still on the bargaining table, including employers’ rights to lay off workers and increase their workload, to cut sick days and holidays, and to institute biweekly pay.

The memo then urges union members to congregate at the corner of 86th Street and Lexington Avenue on April 13 at 3 p.m. for a three-hour “Strike Vote and Rally.” It ends with this vow: “We’re going to show them on 4/13 that if we don’t get what we need, we’ll SHUT THIS ENTIRE CITY DOWN!”

The union represents more than 30,000 building service workers, including doormen, supers, porters, handymen and others, in more than 3,000 residential buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. The last time the union walked off the job was 1991.

The Me Too Agreements, according to several property managers, could be more attractive e to residents of high-end buildings, who are less concerned with paying higher employee wages than with a possible interruption of essential building services.

“Our recommendation is for our buildings not to sign the agreements,” says Peter von Simson, the chief executive at New Bedford Management. “We should all stick together. This year, unlike in 2018, there seems to be a lot more ammunition on both sides not to give in.” 

The two sides return to the bargaining table on Tuesday, April 12, eight days before the current contract expires.

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