A potential strike by New York City office cleaners was averted Friday night when SEIU Local 32BJ and the Realty Advisory Board came to a tentative agreement. The agreement, which must be ratified by workers, includes regular wage increases and $1,100 in bonuses and keeps employer-paid health coverage. Those victories for the current office cleaners weren’t all, though: the agreement does not include a two-tier wage system under which new hires would have been permanently paid just 70 percent of what current workers earn. Instead (PDF), new hires will begin at 75 percent and rise to the full pay rate in steps over a period of 42 months. Workers will also be able to continue contributing to the union’s political fund through automatic payroll deductions, another thing the building owners had sought to eliminate.
“The new contract is not just an important victory for office cleaners and their families, but for our economy and our city,” said Hector Figueroa, Secretary-Treasurer of 32BJ. “In these tough times the workers who keep New York City’s corporate offices and landmark buildings clean and well maintained have stood up for the good middle class jobs our economy and our city needs.” […] “I am happy with this agreement,” said Ivan Almendarez who is a cleaner at New York University. “Keeping my healthcare and getting wage increases will go a long way toward helping me raise my kids and take care of my ailing wife.”
There are so many levels of goodness to this victory. The owners of New York City’s biggest buildings didn’t get away with trying to mobilize public opinion against office cleaners for having the audacity to make $47,000 a year. They didn’t get away with making it more difficult for those workers to contribute to their union’s political mobilization. And those 22,000 workers will continue to have the health coverage they need and to get raises so they can continue to make ends meet.
This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on January 2, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.