After a last-minute disagreement over wages and contract duration threatened negotiations, Bronx building workers struck a deal with the Bronx realty advisory board (brab) and successfully averted a strike nearly an hour before their deadline Tuesday night.

The tentative agreement reached by the 32bj seiu bargaining committee must be ratified by membership, but marks a win with a provisional compromise for the union over the agreements duration.

The tension during the negotiations the day prior arose because brab would not agree to a contract that lasted beyond six months and a proposed to to peg essential workers wages and benefits to rent increases decided on by the NYC rent guidelines board.

The union said Wednesday that the new four-year contract protects pension and healthcare benefits and provides wage increases, but it also includes a provision and compromise that allows brab to re-open the contract after a year and potentially start the bargaining process over. The one-year escape hatch is designed to address concerns brab raised about the impacts of the pandemic and state housing policy on the Bronx real estate industry. If the real estate group doesn’t choose to renegotiate by march 1st next year, the agreement goes for a
full four years.

32bj, representing 2,700 Bronx residential building workers in this contract, won raises of $102.80 per week over four years. Though the process came down to the wire, over the last few cycles that’s been a regular feature for 32bjs negotiations on behalf of residential door-people, porters, superintendents and handy people in the Bronx and its other bargaining group covering the other four boroughs.

The deal protects healthcare with no premium sharing. It protects paid time off. It provides the economic security our members need in a time of rising inflation. The four-year deal includes a provision and compromise to assure the brab that they will indeed be able to afford the wage increases after two years, said Shirley Aldebol, 32bj executive vice president and director of Bronx residential. That they were able to secure a contract after a tumultuous end of negotiations speaks to the unions aggressive organizing and political backing. Brab president Bill Schur had said that city and state politicians from assembly speaker Carl Heastie to city council member Rafael Salamanca had called him to push for an agreement. The deal also reflects a fraught moment for the real estate industry in terms of housing policy, which state legislators have made a priority this session.

Gov. Kathy Hochul released a plan in her proposed budget to build 800,000 new homes over the next 10 years statewide. This week 32bj president Manny Pastreich called on the governor to ensure that her proposal to increase the states housing supply also includes fair wage and labor standards. Trying to create more housing without fair wage and labor standards will just erode the foundation that working class affordability is built on, Pastreich told the daily news on Monday.

32bj is part of the property services division of the seiu. Technically its a mega-local that represents janitors, security officers, school custodians, food service workers, residential and airport workers, but across new york city the union represents over 33,000 residential buildings workers nearly a fifth of its total membership.

One part of 32bjs organizing on behalf of its building service workers involves organizing during the planning stages of real estate development to ensure that owners enter into agreements that will allow workers to join the union and secure prevailing wages and benefits. In the Bronx, the unions new contract will keep the unions future tied to housing policy, giving brab an opportunity to assess the city and state policy landscape in a year and decide whether it still finds it favorable.


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