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Negotiations Continue As New York Office Cleaners Strike Looms

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Members of 32BJ rally in Bowling Green Park.  (credit: Malgorzata Zielinska)

Members of 32BJ rally in Bowling Green Park. (credit: Malgorzata Zielinska)

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — New York’s office cleaners and other workers are threatening to put down their brooms and dusters and go on strike.

Bundled up in purple union hats, scarves and gloves, members of 32BJ braved a bitter wind Thursday as they marched around lower Manhattan.

About 100 union workers and their leadership, who gathered at Bowling Green Park, insist they are not asking for much and simply want what is fair.

1010 WINS’ Eileen Lehpamer Reports

“All we want is a fair wage so every one of us can take care of our families. What these building owners are trying to do to us is not right,” one building worker told 1010 WINS’ Eileen Lehpamer.

Union spokesman Kwame Patterson said the union wants a fair wage increase and no cuts to pension and healthcare plans. He said round-the-clock negotiations began on Wednesday.

“We’re locked in negotiations. The two sides right now are still far apart on certain economic issues,” Patterson said.

The union is fighting against a proposal to create a two-tier wage and benefit system and fighting for wage increases.  The workers have also authorized a strike if no contract deal can be reached with the Realty Advisory Board.

A strike could potentially affect 1,500 commercial office buildings in the city including Rockefeller Center, the Met Life Building, the Empire State Building and the Time-Warner Center.

The union said the highest rate for its cleaners is $22.65 per hour, which amounts to about $47,000 annually.  That is a number that the union says is “significantly less than the household income that independent researchers have shown is necessary to support a family of four.”

However, management has said the city’s cleaning workers are the highest paid in the country.

Virginia, an office cleaner, is just 16 months from retirement and said she needs to know she can do that securely.

“We are asking to keep what we have — not take our benefits, they want to cut our benefits,” she said.

If workers don’t get what they want, they’re ready to walk off the job at midnight on New Year’s Day.

Do you think a deal will be reached?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below…

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