Within Striking Distance Local 32BJ and RAB Compromise on Contract

It took a rally, a march up Park Avenue, and some heated late-night negotiation sessions, but on April 21, 2006, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ and the Realty Advisory Board (RAB) were able to compromise on the terms of a new contract for the city’s supers, porters, doormen, and other building workers. The agreement was tentative, and involved concessions and compromise on both sides of the table, but it also headed off a strike that many in the city thought was inevitable.

The four-year agreement will not be official until it’s ratified by both Local 32BJ’s membership and the RAB’s board of directors, but as it stands now, the city’s 28,000 unionized residential building workers will receive an 8.5 percent pay increase over the course of the contract, and will retain both their fully-paid health care coverage and their pension benefits.

These terms differ somewhat from what both parties brought to the table when negotiations began.

On one side, negotiators representing residential owners and boards proposed that, in light of increased operating costs and health care contributions, building workers should shoulder more of their health care costs, as well as accept a one-year wage freeze and the possibility of adopting 401(k) plans in lieu of pension benefits.

Union representatives rejected outright the health care and pension-related aspects of the RAB’s proposal, and countered that, given the more-than-robust real estate market in the city, not only was a wage freeze out of the question, but that increases should at least match the rate of inflation.

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