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
www.rabolr.com and by fax chain. CNYC’s website (www.CNYC.coop
) has a direct link to the RAB site.
JOIN THE RAB
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).
SOLIDARITY IS VITAL IF A STRIKE OCCURS
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.