Editor’s note: This story is developing and will be updated.
A bargaining committee representing a union of New York City commercial building service workers reached a tentative agreement with the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations early Thursday, with ratification pending in the coming weeks, according to releases by the union and RAB.
The tentative agreement between RAB and the Service Employees International Union local 32BJ maintains healthcare benefits with no premium sharing, which the RAB had proposed, and secures a four-year progressive wage increase averaging 3% annually and a 10% pension benefit increase — with the latter equivalent to an additional $140 per month during retirement, according to 32BJ SEIU.
The agreement also provides each worker a $3,000 bonus upon successful ratification, a limited voluntary early retirement program, Juneteenth as an elective holiday, strengthened anti-discrimination protection and language which commits union contractors in New York City “to local labor standards” across the U.S., it said.
Union members and top New York City and state officials had rallied in support of the workers in the past weeks, and the local had voted to authorize a strike if no agreement was reached by Dec. 31. The contract applies to 20,000 commercial cleaners, porters, maintenance workers, lobby attendants and other building workers across 1,300 buildings, including those at major tourist attractions, transportation hubs and office buildings. The union had opposed RAB’s efforts to make members bear a share of healthcare premium costs and to set lower wages and benefits for new hires, among other provisions of an earlier proposed contract. RAB negotiates collective bargaining agreements on behalf of New York City’s building owners and operators with unions that represent maintenance and operations employees.
“Today we found a common path forward with the RAB that rewards workers appropriately and meets the moment for the New York City commercial real estate industry,” said Manny Pastreich, president of 32BJ, in a press release. “We fought back a two tier wage system that would have been a blow to the future of this movement and the strength in our unity. That was an important line in the sand that we drew, and refused to cross.”
The early retirement program offers a $20,000 401(k) contribution, an additional 5% pension improvement, termination pay and the extension of healthcare benefits up to the age of 65 for commercial members age 60 and older with 15 years of service, 32BJ said. The voluntary early retirement program, as well as a “streamlined” process for addressing staffing levels and changing space utilization, give building owners and operators the ability to address “the challenges facing the industry,” the joint release says.
“We’re proud to come to an agreement that reflects the economic realities that commercial real estate faces by creating the flexibility the industry needs to survive for the long-term. Thank you to Manny Pastriech and the entire 32BJ team for working with us to find solutions that will benefit our workers and our industry,” Howard Rothschild, president of RAB, said in the release.
The average annual wage increase over the four-year agreement equals 3.02%, bringing the total wage for a typical employee to more than $69,000 by the end of the contract, the release states. Across the four-year period it would be the biggest wage increase in the local’s history, it said. The average annual wage and benefit increase combined corresponds to a 2.93% increase over the course of the contract.
The tentative agreement is subject to ratification by both union members and the RAB board. Once ratified, the new contract will extend to Dec. 31, 2027.