Bill Morris in COVID-19 on September 30, 2021
In a major victory for co-op and condo boards – and a major shift by organized labor – the union representing service employees has agreed to allow employers to mandate that their unionized employees receive the vaccine against COVID-19. After months of negotiation, a Memorandum of Agreement was reached by the Realty Advisory Board (RAB), which represents New York City’s real estate interests, and Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, which represents a total of 175,000 building employees, including doormen, porters, security guards and other professions.
The RAB’s board of directors voted unanimously on Thursday to accept the agreement.
“We’re thrilled that they were able to reach a deal,” says Michael Rogoff, president of the property management company AKAM and a member of RAB’s residential committee. “The talks have been progressing in this direction for a while. This is the deal we’ve been waiting for.”
The agreement was reached a week after an arbitrator ruled that the Related Cos. could mandate vaccination for its unionized employees, provided the company fulfills its bargaining obligations. The union had opposed the mandate.
Under the Memorandum of Agreement, employees can still seek an exemption from vaccination due to a religious belief or health condition. But now, for the first time, employees who have not received such an exemption and still decline to be vaccinated face stiff penalties. These include an unpaid leave of absence of up to four months, or until the employee receives the vaccine; or placement on a recall list until March 1, 2022, or until the employee gets vaccinated or the vaccine mandate is lifted.
“My co-op and condo board clients have been using as many carrots as they could to persuade their employees to get vaccinated,” says William D. McCracken, a partner at the law firm Ganfer Shore Leeds & Zauderer. “This, finally, is a pretty big stick. It hits the reluctant employees in the pocket book. I suspect this is going to persuade a large percentage of the holdouts to get the vaccine.”
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