NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — From your apartment building to the street, a march and rally planned by building service workers took place Wednesday to coincide with a strike authorization vote.
Thousands of doormen, porters, supers, and handypersons marched on Fifth Avenue and 79th Street around 5 p.m. as the union considers a possible strike if talks with building owners break down, 1010 WINS reported.
The contract for about 30,000 apartment building workers expires on April 20, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported.
The workers are employed at 3,300 buildings throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
Organizers said that with the real estate industry doing well, members of the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ are asking for a raise that allows them to keep up with the cost of living in New York, 1010 WINS reported.
“Rents are going up in record numbers,” union president Hector Figueroa told Silverman. “Our members are struggling to make ends meet.”
In a statement the organizers said “They make New York home for 2 million residents and deserve a contract that allows them to continue to make New York home for themselves and their families.”
Several prominent New York City officials were also expected to attend the rally, including Public Advocate Letitia James, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York President Gary LaBarbera, Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George L. Miranda, and City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.
“We can have the power of persuasion as elected officials,” said Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was also in attendance.
The union said it hopes the massive rally showed how important it is to maintain jobs that provide a path to the middle class in New York City.
The strike authorization vote, largely a formality, would allow Local 32BJ’s bargaining committee to call a strike if negotiations with the Realty Advisory Board break down.
With more than 145,000 members, including 70,000 in New York City, the 32BJ union is the largest property service workers union in the country.
Howard Rothschild, president of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, released a statement Wednesday regarding the rally and vote, saying “The positive relationship built between the RAB and Local 32BJ over the past 80 years is a model for successful labor relations. It has resulted in 20 plus years of uninterrupted labor peace and we hope to extend that streak this year. Negotiations with the Union are going extremely well so far because we are both committed to the same goal: reaching a fair contract that includes wage increases and protects the generous health and pension benefits that workers enjoy today.”
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