Leave the picket-line placards in storage and set aside the rhetoric for another four years: Building service workers and owners in the Bronx have averted a strike.
Just as the sun rises in the east, landlords and 32BJ SEIU agreed on a new contract without the 2,000 workers leaving their lobbies unattended.
The deal, which the doormen and other staff are expected to ratify Thursday, was reached just before the last contract expired Tuesday at midnight. The union had voted to authorize a strike, which is standard operating procedure to give their representatives 11th-hour leverage in negotiations with the Bronx Realty Advisory Board.
The same sequence of events typically occurs with the union’s superintendents, porters, handypersons and doorpersons in the other boroughs, who have a separate contract. A strike hasn’t happened since the 1990s, a 32BJ spokesperson said, and the Bronx unit has never struck.
Things did get a bit dicey this time, as Bronx landlords were negotiating their first deal since the state put a tourniquet around rent-stabilized buildings’ revenue in June 2019, the worst pandemic since 1918 hit, inflation sprung to life after a 40-year slumber and interest rates soared.
Some tenants haven’t paid rent for 30 months, protected by eviction moratoriums and a backlogged court system.
The union had demanded a 4.11 percent compensation increase and claimed owners sought to carve out superintendents and reduce health benefits. The owners, represented by Billy Schur, said they could not afford that. Three-quarters of them own rent-stabilized properties.
They ultimately settled on 3.18 percent annual increases, on average, including 3 percent wage bumps, a spokesperson for the owners said. The 32BJ spokesperson said the union could not confirm any wage numbers until the contract is ratified.
Owners can opt out up to a year into the deal, a provision they requested in case their financial situation deteriorates more than anticipated.
The annual increases in the previous two contracts were 3.57 percent and 3.59 percent.
Since 2019, inflation has pushed prices up nearly 18 percent, straining owners’ budgets but also diluting workers’ purchasing power. A union executive, Shirley Aldebol, had said during negotiations that 32BJ had rejected the owners’ offer of a “six-month extension with zero wage increases and the potential for several years of wage freezes and benefits cuts.”