NYC apartment workers union votes to strike

April 1, 2010 8:27:37 PM PDT
The union representing 30,000 New York City apartment workers is took a major step towards striking Thursday. The members of 32BJ SEIU cast a unanimous vote to authorize a strike if their negotiations fail to reach an agreement by 12:01 a.m. April 21.

So if an agreement is not reached by then, doormen, supers and others could walk off the job.

There has not been a strike at residential building in New York City in nearly 20 years, and both sides hope to keep it that way. But they are still far apart on issues from wages to benefits.

And the workers say they're ready to strike if it comes to that. They are thousands of unionized doormen, porters, maintenance workers and building superintendents who serve more than a million New Yorkers in residential buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

Their contract expires later this month, and without an agreement, residents could be left to fend for themselves.

Miguel Roig is a doorman on the East Side, struggling to put his daughter through college.

"Our residential apartments are full, all the tenants are happy and we're just hoping to get a fair contract," he said.

The biggest issue in the talks may be health benefits. Members make no contributions, and they're determined to keep it that way.

"It's about trying to reach an agreement that works for both sides," SEIU Local 32BJ's Kevin Doyle said. "And I think we're both trying to do that. Whether or we are able to or not remains to be seen."

But building owners say they're not intimidated by the vote.

"It is routine and largely symbolic," spokesman Howard Rothschild said. "It doesn't mean there will or won't be a strike, but building owners and managers are prepared for a strike, if one is called."

The talks always seem to go down to the wire, so tenants and homeowners are likely to be in limbo for awhile.