NYC Building Cleaners' Strike Averted With Eleventh-Hour Deal

A strike that would have affected 22,000 cleaners working in 1,500 New York City office buildings was averted at the eleventh hour this morning. 32BJ SEIU has the details of the tentative agreement that that the union reached with the Realty Advisory Board today:  

The 32BJ Bargaining Committee tonight announced a tentative agreement with the Realty Advisory Board (RAB) on a four-year contract covering more than 22,000 New York City office cleaners that provides a nearly 5.6% wage increase over the life of the contract and bonuses totaling $1,100.00. The agreement, which must still be ratified, maintains fully employer-paid family health care coverage....

The agreement also calls for the establishment of a joint 32BJ-real estate industry project to promote economic development and good jobs. The project, which will be guided by directors from both 32BJ and the real estate industry, will explore ways for the union and the industry to work together to advance robust and responsible development in New York City.    

The Daily Kos' Laura Clawson explained yesterday what was at stake with this decision:

Building owners want to introduce a two-tier wage system in which new hires would make substantially less than current workers, who earn an average of $47,000 a year, and have "proposed changes in work rules and health benefits, which currently include full family medical insurance." In the public relations fight, the owners are relying on $47,000 to sound like a lot of money for a mere office cleaner to make, but this is New York City we're talking about:

    In 2010, a family of two needed to bring in between $54,536 to live in lower-cost Queens and $78,476 to live in lower Manhattan and cover all of its own       basic needs including food, shelter and health care, according to an annual measure released by The New York Self-Sufficiency Standard Steering               Committee in June.

For these workers, what's at stake is health care, the ability to raise a family, and just plainmaking ends meet. Office cleaners in New Jersey and Connecticut have reached contract agreements; hopefully New York City will follow.

The largest private-sector union in New York state, 32BJ has this year secured new, multiyear contracts for 50,000 workers in the region.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at December 31, 2011, 5:57am