New York, NY – More than 20,000 building service workers across the city will remain on the job throughout the holiday season, after their union and the organization representing property owners and contractors on Friday reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year deal.
According to 32BJ SEIU, the agreement preserves workers’ all-important healthcare package, raises the average cleaner salary to $29.47 per hour before benefits – and institutes stronger protections against sexual harassment in the workplace.
“All I wanted for Christmas was a strong new contract, not just for my family, but for the families of all my brothers and sisters in the union, and I am so happy we have that now,” building cleaner and bargaining committee member Kristinia Bellamy, said in a statement.
The Realty Advisory Board [RAB] issued a statement saying that “both sides thoughtfully considered the economic and regulatory headwinds facing the industry to reach a fair and responsible agreement.”
“We are proud to have reached a fair deal that thoughtfully considered the regulatory and legislative challenges – as well as a softening real estate market – facing the industry,” RAB President Howard Rothschild said. “In anticipation of leaner economic times ahead, the wages and benefits we agreed to are a responsible solution for the next four years.”
The tentative agreement came after 32BJ building service workers marched up Sixth Avenue and voted to authorize a industry-wide strike on Wednesday, December 18, if a deal was not reached before the existing contract expires at year’s end.
“As a breast cancer survivor, I know first-hand the life-saving difference our quality, affordable health care makes,” Bellamy added. “Having that, wages that help us keep up with the rising cost of living in this city, and the benefits and work conditions that allow us to build a better future for our families and our communities is what helps us keep our city strong.”
32BJ President Kyle Bragg released a statement saying that the bargaining committee’s hard work paid off in a “strong new agreement.”
“New Yorkers work hard to build justice in our communities,” Bragg said. “When we have good wages, strong benefits and fair working conditions, we can build our city’s middle class and a secure future for our children.”
Several other energetic and powerful unions, including Teamsters Joint Council 16, 1199SEIU and IUOE Local 94, along with a cadre of elected officials, made it clear during the Sixth Avenue march and rally earlier this week, that they were fully prepared to support 32BJ building service cleaners should they go out on strike.
“Our hospitals are side-by-side with your buildings,” 1199SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Maria Castaneda said ahead of December 18’s strike authorization vote. “It’s about time [building owners and contractors] share in the profit that they made.”
Union members not only secured a deal that includes higher wages — they also beat back the bosses who had sought to push premium sharing and a two-tier wage system on employees.
32BJ expects members to officially ratify the new contract by the end of January.
An industry-wide strike would have hit the city hard, involving more than 1,300 buildings including the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center and World Trade Center — not to mention the offices of Google, Facebook, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank.