No Progress In Building Workers' Contract As Strike Threat Looms
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Commercial building workers returned Friday to the bargaining table with the Realty Advisory Board in hopes of averting a strike on New Year's Day, but sources say talks remain at a standstill.
Negotiations between representatives of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union and the Realty Advisory Board picked up behind closed doors at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown. Both sides say they're prepared to negotiate through the weekend, if necessary.
With no progress made so far, talks could indeed go into the night and through the weekend as both sides work to avoid a strike on New Year’s Day. The union's contract expires New Year's Eve.
Local 32BJ represents 26,000 service workers, including janitors, doormen, and elevator operators. Workers say their wages do not reflect rising real estate revenues and the cost of living in New York City.
Landlords and building owners are offering little more than a cost-of-living raise, saying the workers are already the highest paid in the country and that any discussions must take into account forecasts of an economic slowdown.
“It’s incredible to me that people make millions of dollars every year on these buildings, will talk about how much a porter, who makes less than $40,000 a year, that he’s high paid,” said Kevin Doyle of Local 32BJ. “Our members can’t afford to live in New York City at the wages that they make. They need a significant wage increase.”
Neither side will reveal specifics, but workers now make an average of $40,500 plus benefits, which the real estate board says brings the yearly total to about $66,000.
"We're making some progress, but we continue to be far apart on money," said Local 32BJ President Mike Fishman. "We're in a city that's made enormous profits in the real estate industry and working people are being forced out of the city."
There were no rallies scheduled for Friday, but union members rallied Thursday. The last time workers walked off the job was back in 1996. It lasted about a month.
In the meantime, landlords have handed out manuals to tenants on how to handle a strike.
A walkout would affect about a thousand buildings in the city, including the Empire State Building, the World Financial Center, and the MetLife building.