Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums

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R.A.B. Will Represent Owners in Negotiations

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Every three years, at midnight on the 20th of April, the contract between Local 32B-32J of the Building Service Employees International Union and the owners of residential apartment buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island expires. For more than 50 years, the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, Inc. (RAB) has been the bargaining representative for the majority of buildings in New York City in negotiating successors to this and other labor contracts.

This contract negotiation affects more than 3,000 buildings that are members of the RAB and have employees who are members of Local 32B-32J of the Service Employees International Union. Buildings with 32B-32J employees that are not RAB members will be offered the more onerous "Independent" contract. Your building can join the RAB now and benefit from its preferred contract. Buildings with non-union employees or with employees who are members of other unions will not be affected. Most Bronx building employees belong to Local 32E whose contract expires next fall.


Since a substantial majority of workers covered by this contract are employed in New York cooperatives and condominiums, it is natural that the RAB pay careful attention to the priorities of its co-op and condo members. As tenant-homeowners, we are the ones who must reach into our own pockets to meet any increases in labor costs that result from this contract. While we are pleased to enjoy a reputation for very fair treatment of our service employees, we cannot afford to yield to demands for excessive wage increases or costly benefits.

CNYC is represented on the Board of Directors of the RAB by Mary Ann Rothman, who has been a member of the negotiating team for the last five contracts. Rothman has been asked to serve again this year, and another direct co-op/condo representative, Rita Chu, has also been named to the negotiating team. As president of the board of her own cooperative and a community activist, Chu has been an active participant in the activities of CNYC for several years.

The negotiating team is chaired by D. Kenneth Patton, a real estate professional who himself lives in a cooperative. It also includes property management executives Jim O'Connor of Insignia Properties and Jack Levy of Rose Associates, owner/ manager Arnold Goldstein, who is president of the Rent Stabilization Association, property owner Seymour Zuckerman who is a past president of the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP). Preliminary meetings reflect their clear determination to reach a fair settlement that is not overly burdensome to those who must pay.

Membership in the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, Inc. (RAB) is an important asset to every building with service employees. Your annual membership fee (payable semi-annually) brings the resources of the RAB to you in all of your dealings with labor, including the day-to-day administration of the contract. If you seek to reprimand or to dismiss an employee, the RAB will provide advice and services. At the time of contract negotiations, the RAB serves as your bargaining representative. A "most favored nation" clause in the RAB contract guarantees that RAB members will benefit from the best contract terms negotiated.

This year, as in years past, every effort will be made to reach an equitable agreement in a timely manner. The RAB will be able to deal from the position of greatest strength if all of its member buildings stand firmly behind the negotiators. It is likely that the Union will once again opt out of multi-employer bargaining and purport to be ready to negotiate separately with each building. This is simply a negotiating ploy which does not affect your building in any way. The RAB will negotiate a pattern contract, which each RAB member building will have the option to ratify. If you or your managing agent are approached by the Union to negotiate separately, please advise the Union that the RAB is your bargaining representative and will negotiate on your behalf.


If the Union contacts your building directly, please do not be lured into a private negotiation; simply advise the Union that the RAB is your negotiating representative. Particularly if a strike should occur, solidarity is vital to the success of the RAB negotiators. Therefore, if the Union invites you to sign a "Me Too" agreement, which guarantees you the terms that the RAB will ultimately negotiate in exchange for keeping your employees at work during a strike, PLEASE RESIST. Each building that signs a "Me Too" weakens the negotiating strength of the management group.

Tell the Union that the RAB will represent you in all negotiations, and that, although you would not like to have a strike in your building, you stand firmly with the rest of the residential buildings in this city.

As the April 20th deadline approaches, CNYC will be available to answer your questions about strike preparations. An information chain is being established so that updates from the RAB and from CNYC can be faxed directly to your building if a strike should occur. Contact CNYC with the FAX number at which you would like to receive this information. CNYC's World Wide Web Information Center will contain preparation information and updates as appropriate.

If an agreement is not reached by midnight on the 20th of April, the Union may call a strike. This is a tactic by which the Union seeks to apply pressure on building owners to accept its contract demands. But we resident homeowners in cooperatives and condominiums will be directly affected by any increase in labor costs. Clearly, we will be the least likely to respond to such pressure and capitulate to unreasonable demands. In 1991, when negotiations broke down and a strike occurred, we showed that we can rally to operate our buildings in the absence of service employees. This year we will be equally well-prepared to resist pressure of this nature and to support the RAB for as long as it may take to negotiate a fair and equitable contract.

In the past, when an impasse occurred, sometimes both sides have agreed to stop the clock and continue to negotiate until agreement is reached. On other occasions, the Union has quickly called a strike. There is no easy way to predict what will happen this year, so buildings must be well prepared for every eventuality.

The Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums' booklet, "In the Event of a Strike. . .", will be sent to all member cooperatives and condominiums with service employees and to all CNYC professional subscribers in March. This booklet is designed to help member buildings provide for the safety, comfort, and well-being of all residents if building service employees are called out on strike. It suggests procedures to follow to insure building security, to keep building systems functioning, and to keep residents informed of developments. If your building was not yet resident owned or controlled at the time of the last contract negotiation, this booklet will be of particular interest. As always, you are free to make copies of this booklet and to use the material that it contains in your communications to residents. Additional copies can be purchased from CNYC for $5.


Generally, negotiations progress v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y until the final days and hours before the contract expires. Therefore, it will be difficult to provide substantial news in advance. CNYC has scheduled two important labor workshops focused on the contract deadline. On April 15th a progress report will be provided on the negotiations, and members will be helped with final preparations to run their buildings if a strike occurs. Another session is scheduled for April 21st, where it is hoped that the terms of the new contract will be described. If instead a strike is in progress, support will be offered. See Coming Events for details on these meetings.

As the contract expiration approaches, the RAB will maintain a 24-hour hotline to answer your questions at (212) 889-4100. The FAX chain and CNYC WWW Information Center will give regular updates if a strike should occur. Be sure that CNYC and RAB have your FAX number if you wish to receive information. As soon as an agreement is reached on a successor contract, the terms will be summarized to the FAX chain and published on the CNYC World Wide Web Information Center.


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