32BJ union rallies outside Skyview for better standards

Bronx Realty Bronx Realty Advisory Board ends the 4-year pact reached in 2023


Union members of 32BJ are ready to strike after learning the contract they bargained for last year is being terminated by the Bronx Realty Advisory Board.

Members composed of doormen, handymen, porters and supers rallied on Feb. 21 outside of Skyview Riverdale at 5700 Arlington Ave. to demand the standards and benefits that they negotiated in 2023.

“They are planning on lowering our standards and to break the agreement that we settled last year,” said 32BJ delegate Aneury Rodriguez. “So we’re not going to allow that to happen. We’re going to fight to protect the benefits that we have, standards that we negotiated last year and we’re going to do everything we feel to stop these negotiations.”

Just two weeks prior, the BRAB notified the union they were reopening negotiations and terminating the collective bargaining agreement that was settled last year effective March 31. That 4-year agreement was described by the union as a fair contract for both workers and Bronx employers.

“Workers won fair increases — averaging three percent per year — and 32BJ was able to offer the industry better rates for benefits coverage than in prior contracts without cutting our benefits,” stated Simon Davis-Cohen, a spokesperson for 32BJ. “Hundreds of other independent co-ops, condos, and rental buildings have signed agreements with these same economic terms.”

According to Davis-Cohen, the BRAB demanded the right to reopen the contract in 2024 to protect rental landlords in the event 2023 increases at the Rent Guidelines Boards were low. Those increases were not low, with the board approving three percent hikes for 2023, on top of 3.25 percent increases in 2022, Cohen said. Despite getting the increases they wanted, that contract is being terminated.

“The BRAB is seeking givebacks that will come out of workers’ pockets’ with lower wages or cuts to our benefits,” Cohen stated. “Our families cannot survive on lower wages or cuts in our benefits. What the BRAB is doing will force workers in Riverdale and across the Bronx to strike to protect our families. Workers are mobilizing across the Bronx.”

The union is gathering petitions and distributing leaflets, as well as engaging in mini-rallies around the Bronx to raise awareness. Shirley Aldebol, executive vice president of local 32BJ, said she wants co-op and condo owners of Riverdale to know what’s going on.

“We don’t really fully understand the reasons why,” she said of the BRAB reopening the contract. “We think that they feel that the Rent Guidelines Board did not increase rent high enough and that they are not making enough money. And we’re talking about mostly buildings that are rent stabilized areas. And so we believe that the residents of Riverdale should know what’s going on and that they should demand that their co-op or condo boards tell the BRAB that they don’t want a re-opener of the contract.”

Strike delegate Rodriguez said that the BRAB would have until March 1 to let them know if there’s any plan to reopen renegotiation. Until then the union is doing everything it can to reverse the move.

Tony Ahmeti, resident manager at 5800 Arlington Ave., said that all they’re hoping for is to get what they were promised in the last contract.

Ahmeti, a member of the bargaining committee, was perplexed by the board’s decision considering they won and signed the contract.

“I just don’t understand why they would do this to us when during the pandemic we didn’t hide, we worked,” Ahmeti said. “There were guys that did like work for three people here because guys were calling in sick. Guys were getting sick, their families were getting sick, some of the members died, too. And for them to do this, it just hurts.”

He said the new contract would lower standards, take away their pension, as well as their health insurance. As a father of a child with medical needs, not having health insurance is not an option. He added that they don’t make enough money to pay for health insurance.

Angel Ortega, superintendent at Briar Oaks and senior north regional shop steward of 32BJ, said that they will continue to drop pamphlets and leaflets. He believes the intention of the recent move was to take back everything they gave them.

“It’s a small group of landlords in the BRAB that’s launching this and they want to drag us with this,” Ortega, another member of the bargaining committee, said. “This is not a unified decision. This is Billy Shore and two other landlords at the very most making this decision for everybody else. And that’s not fair, they want to strike, they can strike their buildings.”

The BRAB was asked to comment on the rally but did not respond.

Julio Placencia, a doorman and concierge at The Whitehall at 3333 Henry Hudson Parkway, said that he does not feel like 32BJ is representing its workers in The Bronx. This is because members in Westchester, Manhattan and elsewhere have better contracts comparatively, he said. He believes that negotiating will allow them an opportunity for a fairer contract.

“I think negotiating gives a second chance at a better deal, a better weekly payment, a little more money than we get right now,” he said. “Because I feel like 32BJ is an umbrella that should represent every county all the same, the same contract, and I think the Bronx with a better fair contract every year that is the same. And still now even though we just signed a contract a year ago, it’s less than any other contract.”

As for the BRAB, Placencia says they are all ready to strike if need be.

“You can imagine how you’re going to replace 25 workers (at the Whitehall) if we go on strike,” Placencia said. “The security of the building is going to fail because new workers, they don’t know the systems, they don’t know the people or anything like this.

“So they’re going to have the tenants come down and work. So I think this is just not fair for the Bronx 32BJ members. I think we should go on strike if we have to and ask for a better deal than what we just signed last year.”

SEIU, 32BJ, union, Skyview Apartments, Skyview Riverdale, rally, Tony Ahmeti, Arlington Avenue, strike, doormen, handymen, porters, supers, superintendents