West Side Rag » Doormen of luxury building allow strike as negotiations stall
Posted on April 14, 2022 at 9:04 am by West Side Rag
By Claudia Irizarry Aponte, THE CITY
This article was originally published
by THE CITY
More than 30,000 workers and doormen at the luxury building authorized a strike on Wednesday if they cannot reach an agreement on a collective bargaining agreement which expires on April 20.
Luxury construction workers and doormen at more than 3,000 buildings, from low-rise rentals to supertalls on Billionaire’s Row, authorized a strike on Wednesday night if they cannot reach agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement to succeed the one that expires April 20.
Talks between the workers – bargaining through their union, 32BJ-SEIU – and the Real Estate Labor Relations Advisory Board (RAB), which represents landlords, are ongoing, with the two sides meeting Tuesday and due to trade again on Thursday.
A major point of contention for workers is a management proposal demanding reductions in paid vacation and sick leave for workers, as well as proposals for workers to contribute to their health insurance, which is currently paid for entirely by owners. buildings and apartments.
Felix Figueroa, a janitor at The Hamilton, a co-op in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights, alleged the RAB was going to extremes and “not negotiating in good faith.”
“They want to go from A to Z. We don’t think now is the right time to go back,” on health coverage two years into the pandemic, the 54-year-old said. “We should move on.”
After a rally on Park Avenue, workers voted to authorize a strike if an agreement is not reached by April 20. If negotiations fail and the two sides fail to agree on a contract, it would be their first work stoppage since 1991, which lasted 12 days. .
The strike would affect more than 550,000 residents of the building, disrupting package and mail deliveries as well as building security if more than 30,000 workers suspend work.
“On the 21st there will be a strike if there is no contract,” 32BJ-SEIU President Kyle Bragg said in an interview at the Upper East Side rally in support of workers on Wednesday afternoon.
“We remain optimistic about the progress of the negotiations, but we still have a long way to go before we get an agreement,” he said. “We haven’t yet discussed the economic issues beyond what it takes to maintain our benefits, so we’re hoping to talk more about that tomorrow and then see where we stand.”
‘No no no’
The union contract covers superintendents, porters, handymen, janitors and doormen at properties owned or managed by related companies, allied partners, Vornado Realty Trust and other companies who negotiate together as a real estate advisory board on labor relations, which owns properties in each borough. except the Bronx.
At the rally that stretched along Park Avenue from East 79th Street to approximately East 86th Street, hundreds of these workers protested the landlords’ demands, shouting during a call and response: “They say giveaways, we say retaliate!”
Among those present were a few powerful New York Democrats, including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Governor Kathy Hochul and Upper West Side council member Shaun Abreu.
Asked about the management proposals, building superintendent José Aponte, who was holding a sign reading “Ready for strike,” simply replied, “No, no, no. It’s not good.”
Real Estate Advisory Council Chairman Howard Rothschild said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that management’s demands for health insurance reimbursement and reduced vacation pay were “reasonable.”
“The RAB has offered fair and reasonable wage increases, as well as the sharing of healthcare costs through employee bonus contributions, which employees currently pay nothing for,” the statement said. “Our relationship with the union has resulted in more than 30 years of uninterrupted social peace and we continue to work towards that same goal this year.”
The pandemic has changed the nature of work
Ardist Brown, a 61-year-old janitor at 66 Central Park West, noted that construction workers had to take on multiple roles as COVID lockdowns transformed residences into mixed-use areas for living, working and playing, making cuts offered by management for holidays and illnesses. time stings more.
“I wore many hats during the pandemic: I became the home helper, I became the dog walker, the parcel delivery man, I delivered food,” he said.
Even before the vote to authorize the strike, the Teamsters – which represent drivers for UPS and other trucking and delivery services – pledged to support the doormen.
“The Teamsters stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers at 32BJ and will give the union our full support to win their strike,” Teamsters 16 Joint Council spokesman Alex Moore said in a statement to THE CITY Wednesday morning.
With market rents soaring, construction workers are bargaining for a bigger slice of the pie, seeking higher wages and better benefits. In March, the median asking rent in Manhattan hit a record high of $3,700, more than 21% higher than a year ago.
Workers are demanding an “at least” inflation-linked pay rise, which in New York sits at a rate of 5.1%, and no changes to their health care, currently funded entirely by building owners and apartments.
The more than 170 32BJ-SEIU members who have died from the coronavirus, including 40 who worked in apartment buildings, are also on the minds of workers during the negotiations.
Brown, the janitor at 66 Central Park West, contracted COVID in March 2020. He was back at work three weeks later. He was also present during the last strike of doormen in 1991.
He had a message for building owners: “Remember those who saved lives during the pandemic.”
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