As Building Management Labor Negotiations Continue, Owners Prepare Residents For Strikes
New York City property owners and managers are warning residents of possible strike action from employees at condominiums, co-ops and rental buildings, with the workers’ collective bargaining agreement set to run out in a matter of weeks.
The Realty Advisory Board, which represents building owners and managers, has met with the Service Employees International Union’s local 32BJ three times with the hope of coming to an agreement.
The current contract — which covers doormen, porters, handypersons and building superintendents — runs out April 20.
The last time 32BJ workers went on strike was more than 25 years ago. But Halstead Management has sent a letter to residents in at least one of its buildings, which Bisnow has acquired, informing them that if a strike does happen, they will have just a few hours' notice.
“Every effort will be made to arrive at a fair contract, but we must prepare for the possibility of a strike of all employees, with the exception of your superintendent or resident manager,” Halstead wrote this week in a letter to residents in an apartment building it manages in Brooklyn.
The company asked for residents to sign up as volunteers to sort mail and other services normally carried out by workers. Halstead did not return a request for comment.
“We hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” Realty Advisory Board President of Labor Relations Howard Rothschild said. “We don’t want a strike, [but] we also want to plan in case something goes wrong … We want to communicate with our residents and let them know what’s going on.”
The agreements for the residential and commercial buildings are negotiated every four years, but the current commercial building agreement does not expire until 2020. Rothschild said the union and the RAB have an excellent relationship, and have been negotiating for more than 80 years.
The cost to an employer for an average doorman or porter is more than $85K in wages and benefits, according to the RAB, and $91K for a maintenance worker. New York City workers are the highest paid in the country, Rothschild said, and all employees receive full family health insurance along with a defined benefit pension fund and a 401(k) annuity with employer contribution. Workers receive average annual wage and benefit increases of over 3.4% each year.
The union, however, claims doormen and women and porters make just over $49K year.
“The real estate market has been strong and profitable, and our members are a key part of what makes New York City apartment living so desirable,” 32BJ President Hector Figueroa said in a statement. “We hope to come to an agreement by the April 20 expiration date for a new four-year contract that preserves the good, middle-class jobs our members have fought for over 80 years of contract negotiations.”