Commercial building service workers’ union authorizes strike

Office cleaners’ contract expires Dec. 31
December 01, 2011 04:54PM

Local 32BJ, the union representing more than 22,000 commercial
building workers in New York City, voted Thursday to authorize their
bargaining committee to call a strike if necessary, the union said in
a statement.

The union has been in contract talks with the Realty Advisory Board on
Labor Relations, an industry association representing most building
owners, since November 15th. The union opposes the
landlords’ proposal to establish a different wage and benefit
structure for new hires, which they claim will create a two-tier
system designed to push out workers with seniority.

If negotiations fail by 12:01 am on Jan. 1, 2012, the union could
strike at such high-profile buildings as Rockefeller Center, the Met
Life Building and the Empire State Building. Workers’ contracts expire
on Dec. 31, 2011, according to today’s announcement.

“These workers live in the city with the highest cost of living in the
country, and the real estate market here is the most profitable in the
country,” the union’s president, Mike Fishman, said in a statement.

“I’m raising my two teenage children by myself. It takes two pay
checks just to be able to buy my kids’ clothes and shoes,” Enma
Mehdovic, who cleans the Sony building at 550 Madison Avenue, is
quoted as saying in the statement.

The maximum annual salary for commercial office cleaners represented
by Local 32BJ is approximately $47,000 annually, which reflects a per
employee cost of $76,721 per year, the union said.

However, RABLR President Howard Rothschild said that figure could be
misleading. Almost all union members receive the maximum wage, he said, with the
rare exception of inexperienced employees, who start at 80 percent of
the maximum wage for the first 30 months. Workers represented by Local
32BJ average 39 paid days off per year, Rothschild said.

Fishman said he is hopeful that negotiations will succeed. “Nobody
wants a strike –least of all the men and women who keep New York
City’s office buildings clean,” he said. “But we must prepare for one
if building owners insist on taking us down that path.” — Guelda Voien