This newsroom may soon turn into a giant trash heap.
And we're not the only office running that risk. New York Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, the largest property services workers union in the country, is on the verge of striking. The strike could happen as soon as Sunday if an agreement is not reached with the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations.
In the current negotiations, both sides are still far apart, said Kwame Patterson, a spokesman for 32BJ SEIU. [The office cleaners] just want a fair wage. The most they make is $47,000 a year. Not much to keep pace with one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Similarly, a recent press release from the RAB states, While progress has been made concerning a number of items, the parties remain apart on economic issues. Those issues largely involve the pay and benefits of senior and junior level employees. The RAB would like to keep the senior-level workforce at current compensation. Those with less experience will come in with less benefits and lower pay.
The union that represents the office cleaners would like to keep the pay and benefits a relatively level playing field. What is the incentive for building owners keeping senior-level employees? Patterson asked during a phone interview. He believes that in tight times, building owners lay off senior-level office cleaners employed and instead hire cheaper workers with less experience.
In addition to pay and benefits, there's dispute over whether the office cleaners should be allowed to provide money to political action committees. They basically want to sign away these workers' political voices, says Patterson.
The current contract between the RAB and 32BJ SEIU expires at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1. If a new agreement is not reached before that time, you could see more than 22,000 people on the picket lines. Trash, mail and many other things may pile up quickly. The strike would affect more than 1,500 commercial office buildings throughout New York, mostly in Manhattan.