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Buildings and workers prepare for strike

Sunnyside resident Felipe Torres hopes he will still have his health care insurance by the end of the month.
“If the union accepts the employer’s demands, they will take all of these things away,” said Torres, a doorman for two years at a Manhattan luxury rental building. “The owners are demanding to pay less. That’s the situation.”
About 3,500 building workers in Queens – doormen, superintendents, resident managers, porters, handymen and concierges – along with members in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island, nearly 30,000 citywide, recently voted to go on strike, if necessary, at midnight April 20 if the Realty Advisory Board (RAB) – the representatives of over 400 building owners and managers – and 32BJ do not reach a new contract.
The RAB urges “owners and managing agents to prepare for the possibility of a strike” that would affect more than 550 buildings in Queens.
According to 32BJ, the RAB has proposed that workers give up five out of 10 sick days; that workers only receive four hours of overtime pay if they work eight hours; and that workers pay 10 percent of their medical. The RAB also proposed a two-tiered system – one for current union members and another for future members, the latter who never receive a pension or pay increase for five years.
“The overtime and days off proposals are very complicated, but there have been requests for changes,” said a spokesperson for the RAB. “Workers get an average of 38 paid days off.”
Owners have been hit doubly hard by the economy due to the decrease in value of their properties and an increase in taxes, according to Howard Rothchild, president of the RAB.
Workers have had “wage and benefit fund increases each year of the [collective bargaining agreement],” Rothchild said. “Employees have beaten the cost of living by 52 percent for cost increases since the last agreement was negotiated.”
Torres said that an entry level salary for a doorman was $16,000 and, after two years, rose to $19,000 to $20,000. He acknowledged that combined, the salary and benefits package of a doorman were good, but he would not want to see the health care insurance go. Torres would rather negotiate his sick days and overtime pay.
“It’s a very difficult situation. It’s a double-edge sword,” said Torres

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