Thousands of 32BJ members and supporters rallied to demand a fair contract and voted to authorize 32BJ’s bargaining committee to either recommend an agreement for ratification or call for a strike if talks with the Realty Advisory Board break down.
New York, NY – Thousands of 32BJ members rallied on Park Avenue along with their union leaders, elected officials and community allies to demand a fair contract for the 31,500 doormen and women, superintendents, resident managers, handypersons, concierges and porters who work in 3,500 buildings throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
The massive rally took place in the context of sky-high rents and sale prices for the real estate industry in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Apartment workers, who support 1.5 million New York residents, took to the streets in the hopes of getting a contract that will allow them to continue to support their families. The 15,000 person rally, which included 32BJ members as well as non-union workers and supporters, demonstrated how much support there is to maintain good jobs that provide a path to the middle class in New York City.
“It has become more and more difficult to keep up with high rents and the cost of living,” said Michelle Galarza, a 32BJ member who works as a porter in Manhattan. “A fair contract would help us better serve millions of residents while making New York our home as well.”
Negotiations for a new contract began on March 1 between 32BJ and the Realty Advisory Board (RAB), an industry association representing most building owners in New York City. The union’s bargaining committee is comprised of elected leaders of 32BJ and many rank and file members, who have been chosen to represent all 31,500 residential members. Members authorized this committee to negotiate a deal, which the overall membership will ratify. Workers took a strike vote during Wednesday’s rally to authorize the bargaining committee to call a strike if a deal cannot be reached.
The building workers want a raise that keeps up with the cost of living. They also want to maintain affordable health care coverage and ensuring adequate funds for training and retirement. The next bargaining session will be April 12.
“Today thousands of hardworking men and women in New York showed their power and the overwhelming support they have from our brothers and sisters in the labor movement and elected officials who know that good jobs make our communities stronger, said Hector Figueroa, President, 32BJ SEIU. “Residential building workers are the backbone New York’s middle class and the friendly and reliable staff serving more than 1.5 million New Yorkers.”
“You look strong!” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Every time you stand up and fight for people, and you make it happen!”
“There is an anti-worker mentality that has taken over this country,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “It’s the unions that built the middle class in this country, and it’s the union’s that protect the middle class in this country.”
The governor continued, “32BJ is one of the best union’s in the country. You have to deal with the real estate industry, which is one of the toughest industries in the country, and when 32BJ is negotiating you know you’re going to get a fair deal.. There’s an anti-union climate the one per cent doesn’t understand — the struggleto to make ends meet, to feed your families. You have a great ally — a union that protects the middle class. Your other ally is me. I will stand with you on any picket line. I am going to stand with you shoulder to shoulder 100% in this fight.”
In addition to Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, 32BJ members were joined Public Advocate Tish James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assemblywomen Yuhline Niou and Carmen De La Rosa and dozens of other elected officials. Representatives from New York’s leading unions — DC37, Teamsters, The Building Trades Council, Workers United, Communications Workers of America, 1199, RWDSU and the Central Labor Council— also spoke in support of 32BJ members.
With more than 163,000 members, including 70,000 in New York City, 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country.