NYC apartment building workers avert citywide strike with new union contract and wage increases

The union representing thousands of residential building workers in New York City’s high-rise apartments has reached a tentative labour agreement on a new contract, averting a potential strike that would impact tenants across the city.

In an agreement with the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, union workers will get the largest pay raise in their history, making them the highest-paid residential building service workers in the US, according to Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union.

The annual wage increase over the new four-year agreement will bring total annual wages for an average New York City doorperson to roughly $62,000 by the end of the contract, which also includes a one-time $3,000 bonus, according to the union.

The agreement – which covers more than 30,000 building workers, including door workers, porters, handypersons and building superintendents in roughly 3,000 properties, from the Billionaires’ Row towers in Manhattan to luxe Park Avenue apartments – will prevent what would have been the first strike among residential union workers in more than 30 years. The current contract expires on 20 April.

The Realty Board sought concessions on healthcare premiums and other benefits, including paid leave, arguing that employees were among only 5 per cent of workers who do not contribute to their health insurance plans.

In the days leading up to the potential strike, building managers began sending out notices to tenants, with one firm telling residents in an Upper East Side building that “building activities such as apartment alterations and renovations, moves in and moves out, and deliveries will all be adversely affected.”

Another notice reviewed by The Independent asked tenants to volunteer as lobby security, garbage collection and mail sorters in anticipation of a strike.

Last week, union members held a rally – with Governor Kathy Hochul and Senator Chuck Schumer and other elected officials in attendance – and voted to authorise a strike should they not reach a deal on a new contract, rejecting the board’s concessions as dealbreakers.

Workers also held a moment of silence to recognise the more than 170 union members who died of Covid-19, including 40 who were residential building workers.

“We have a deal!” union president Kyle Bragg said in a statement on Tuesday. “We got a deal done that protects healthcare, with no premium sharing. We got a deal done that protects paid time off. We got a deal done that provides the economic security our members need in a time of rising inflation. We got a deal done that our members have earned and deserved.”

Mr Bragg said the contract recognises “the indispensable contributions that 32BJ members made throughout the pandemic” and members sacrifices.

“They were there, keeping our buildings running and our communities safe, when the city needed them most,” he said.

Board president Howard Rothschild said the agreement will “continue to create and support middle class jobs for more than 30,000 workers over the next four years.”

“The agreement builds on the important work [the board] and 32BJ accomplished together throughout the pandemic – protecting jobs and maintaining solid health benefits – and further shows the industry’s respect and appreciation for our essential workers with a substantial bonus,” he said in a statement.