UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (PIX11) — Members of a buildings workers union unanimously authorized a vote to strike if they do not reach a new contract with the Realty Advisory Board. 

It was a strong turnout Wednesday afternoon. Hundreds of members of the 32BJ SEIU union packed into a penned-in area stretching more than two city blocks along Park Avenue. They gathered not only for a rally, but for the strike vote.

Members say what the RAB is offering isn’t keeping up with the cost of living. 

“Inflation is going up, we need a contract that we’ll be able to provide for our families and also a pension to keep us going,” said Felix Figueroa, who’s been a doorman for 33 years. “The way things are going in the city we need to catch up.”

32BJ members say they are standing strong and they are standing in solidarity. The contract covers over 32,000 workers spread out over the five boroughs. Those employees include doormen, porters, supers and maintenance crews. They work in over 3,000 buildings, condos and co-ops alike. During the pandemic, city and state officials deemed building workers as “essential.”

Kyle Bragg is the president of 32BJ.

“Our members stand united in this fight to win a fair contract. We’ve been through a lot over the past two years,” said Bragg.  “We’ve been dubbed essential workers, but this is something we always knew. But this pandemic pulled back that curtain to show really the value of this workforce to this city.”

If the strike happens, affected New York City apartment dwellers will have to take out their own trash, accept deliveries, be responsible for repairs, even sort their own mail. The main sticking point in contract negotiations appears to be health insurance. 

“They want us to pay for premiums and we say that’s a non-starter,” said Donald McCaffrey, who’s been a porter for over three decades.

Bragg adds there is no animosity towards residents and this is about the owners recognizing their worth. 

“It’s not about the residents as a matter of fact we enjoy a very unique relationship with the people we’re privileged to serve,” said Bragg. “We work in people’s homes, we see children go from crib to college, so we have a very personal and unique relationship with the people we are privileged to serve.”

The clock is ticking. The current four-year contract expires April 20. 

“We’ll either have a contract or we have a strike, let’s hope we have a contract,” said Bragg. 

PIX11 reached out to the Realty Advisory Board.  They released this statement:

“The strike authorization vote happens every four years and does not mean a strike will occur. It simply allows 32BJ the option to strike, should we be unable to reach an agreement,” Howard Rothschild, president of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, said.The RAB has proposed fair and reasonable wage increases, as well as the sharing of healthcare costs through employee contributions to the premiums, of which employees currently pay zero. Our relationship with the union has resulted in more than 30 years of uninterrupted labor peace and we continue to work towards that same goal this year.”