Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums
CNYC Newsletter
LABOR ISSUES 32B-32J Contract Expires in April

Published: Winter 2003

Most of the workers in apartment buildings in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan are members of Local 32B-32J of the Services Employees International Union. Their current three-year contract expires at midnight on Sunday, April 20, 2003 (which is Easter Sunday and the middle of Passover week). As a successor contract is negotiated, both employers and employees will seek changes to improve the contract from their own perspectives. Building owners, including cooperatives and condominiums, are represented in these negotiations by the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, Inc. (RAB). The RAB will negotiate a pattern contract with the Union; RAB member buildings then each have the option of accepting or rejecting the contract. Since 1982, CNYC has been represented on the RAB negotiating team.

Contract negotiations are complex processes, where each side must listen to the other and be willing to work for reasoned compromises. This ensures that workers are fairly treated and that employers' needs are also recognized. The history of our industry reflects many years of successful negotiations that have produced good wages and benefits for building service employees and a flexible and fair contract that acknowledges the employer’s need for a capable and willing staff.

Occasionally, the two sides find themselves so far apart on crucial issues that negotiations break down and a strike occurs. This has happened only once in the last two decades, in 1991; the agreement that ended the strike pleased neither labor nor management. In 1994, 1997 and 2000, reasonable negotiations have produced contracts acceptable to both sides. CNYC hopes again to help negotiate an RAB contract that you will be pleased to sign in 2003.

CNYC invites suggestions from its members for contract improvements. These will be brought to the attention of the RAB where, if widely accepted, they will be included in the demands that we present to the Union. The Union is also asking its members for their priorities and suggestions.

As we prepare optimistically for a smooth negotiation, we must also be ready for all eventualities. CNYC encourages member cooperatives and condominiums to plan carefully so that they are ready and able to maintain security and comfort for all building residents if a strike should occur. To guide you in making these preparations, CNYC will soon circulate its booklet entitled, "In the Event of a Strike. . ." This booklet makes specific suggestions for operating your building without the help of your employees – by hiring security guards, assigning employee tasks to resident volunteers, and curtailing many non-vital activities. It suggests early preparations and notifications, including ensuring that you have accurate and complete lists of building residents (with clear notations about anyone with special needs). It also recommends making temporary modifications in building policies, such as allowing no renovations to begin in April and no move-outs/move-ins to be scheduled from April 18 to the end of the month. Special consideration will need to be given this year to the extra guests who may be visiting in the building because of the double holiday.
RAB President James F. Berg, Esq. will be the keynote speaker at CNYC’s Annual Meeting on Tuesday, March 11, 2003. He will outline the negotiation process, advise on strike preparedness and answer questions (see page 16) .
The RAB will conduct similar preparedness presentations throughout the city over the next several weeks, and CNYC and the RAB will join to present an update on April 15th (see page 17). If a strike occurs, the RAB will promptly circulate all available information and advice on its website and by fax chain. CNYC’s website ( ) has a direct link to the RAB site.

CNYC has consistently encouraged its members to join the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, which provides ongoing services to its members in their dealings with labor. The triennial contract that the RAB negotiates with workers in residential buildings has provisions that are more advantageous to building owners than the contract that the Union offers to "independent" owners.
It is likely that your management company deals exclusively with the RAB on your behalf, and that your board has little or no contact with the RAB. While this is perfectly appropriate in settling day-to-day labor problems, your board may want the benefit of receiving its own copies of notices from the RAB relating to this contract negotiation. To arrange to receive such notices via e-mail, fax or U.S. mail, call the RAB at (212) 889-4100 and designate an individual to receive these notices (or have them sent to your building by email or to your corporate mailbox).

If building employees do go out on strike, it is vital that all buildings stand firm in support of the RAB negotiators. Each building that signs a so called ‘me-too’ agreement with the Union seriously weakens the ability of the RAB to negotiate a fair contract. A building that signs a ‘me-too’ agreement does keep its workers at work (or brings them back from the picket line), but it promises the Union that it will accept whatever the terms of the ‘me-too’ agreement provides, or whatever contract terms are ultimately negotiated by the RAB, if better. (In the past, the Union has never offered a ‘me-too’ agreement, but rather a ‘you-too’ agreement. In these cases, the building agreed to the terms of a contract that had already been rejected by the negotiating committee of the RAB, with the understanding that these terms would be changed if the ultimate RAB contract provided for less). When you sign, the Union will announce – in the press and with signs all around your building – that you have agreed to their demands. This weakens the negotiating power of the RAB.

Instead, please make careful plans in advance to be able to run your building if a strike occurs. Prepare building residents to understand the situation and to do their part to protect the security of the building and to ensure a reasonable and affordable contract. CNYC’s booklet, "In the Event of a Strike....", will be sent to all member buildings in March. It offers detailed suggestions for guarding the door, running the elevator, sorting the mail, coping with garbage and recycling, and dealing with emergency situations. It explains that your building employees are not to be blamed if their Union calls them out on strike. CNYC encourages members to copy portions of this booklet as needed and to circulate them to building residents. Additional copies can also be purchased from CNYC at $5 apiece.


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