More than 30,000 building workers in New York City could go on strike soon, forcing high-rise luxury apartment residents to take out their own trash and grab their own packages. The union contract for building porters, doormen, and other workers in buildings owned by companies like Vornado Realty Trust and Related expires April 20th. Property managers are looking to cut employee vacation days and sick time and have workers take on more of their healthcare costs, which are now fully covered by the companies. Workers aren’t having it.
Negotiations are ongoing, as seven more bargaining sessions are scheduled before April 20th, according to a representative for the union, SEIU 32BJ. The union says the workers at about 3,000 NYC buildings are paid $26.45 an hour on average or about $55,000 annually. They’ve received pay and benefit increases of about 3.3 percent a year under their current contract, which will expire soon. The pay increases haven’t kept up with rising costs, though. Prices rose about 5.1 percent in the New York metro area in February compared to last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
SEIU 32BJ is negotiating with the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations. Howard Rothschild, President of the Board, said the parties have a long history of successful collective bargaining. “We worked in partnership to protect workers and extend full family health benefits during the pandemic, and we will continue to work towards reaching a fair contract for both sides by April 20th,” Rothschild said.
Workers and unions nationwide feel more emboldened than ever during a time when the U.S. is going through the most intense period of labor unrest since the early 1980s. Doormen, superintendents, and other property workers played a key role as “essential workers” during the height of the pandemic, and now they want their due.
With twice as many big labor strikes in 2021 than in 2020, the labor movement is having a bit of a moment. There were 16 major work stoppages (strikes) that started in 2021, according to the BLS. The agency defines a major work stoppage as one involving 1,000 or more workers that last at least one shift during the workweek. The numbers are still far below historical levels, considering BLS reports there were 470 stoppages in 1952, the highest annual number ever recorded. Still, property managers everywhere would be wise to take note. The pressure in the labor market is real, and it’ll likely continue to shift the balance of power between a property’s management and its workforce for a long time to come.