David Stone
Will they lay down their tools and walk?
Will they lay down their tools and walk?

Update, April 15th. A four year contract between the Realty Advisory Board, which represents building owners and managers, and the Service Employees International Union 32BJ expires on April 20th. All Roosevelt Island residential buildings are involved. Workers met to take a strike vote on Wednesday, April 11th. But both groups jointly announced a negotiated agreement on Friday.

"Following a week of negotiations, a strike by janitors, porters, handymen and doormen was averted after they secured a 11.3 percent pay rise over the next four years (with the increase in benefits, that number is 13.28 percent)," according to The Real Deal, a real estate website.

Membership the Real Estate Advisory Board and 32BJ must formally ratify the contract, but both are expected to win easy approval.


Doormen, porters, handypersons and resident managers, accounting for 31,000 jobs, are represented by 32BJ. To simplify negotiations, building owners and managers unite behind the Real Estate Advisory Board on Labor Relations. Negotiations began in early March.

Since the current contract was signed in 2014, real estate values have soared, and service workers are demanding their share of the increase. RAB counters that values have plateaued.

“These workers need to be able to afford to live in the city where they work,” Union President Héctor Figueroa said. “And collective bargaining still works as a path to the middle class.”

The union says that the average doorman or porter earns $49,000 per year. From their point of view, the owners say the total package, including benefits, is more like $85,000.

A factor raised by tenants, stuck in the middle and voiceless, is that annual holiday tips for service workers add substantially to their income. But that's a mixed bag on Roosevelt Island and elsewhere.

For stable buildings like Rivercross and most of Southtown, yearly gifts are expected and appreciated by familiar staff serving the same tenants, year round. In other places, covering at least half of the Island, workers report that gifts have tapered off to very little as buildings are converting to transient housing, much of it illegal, and dormitories, where tenants are often little more than strangers who come and go after short stays.

Many apartments are given over to Airbnb-style shelter, as evidenced by the influx and outgo of luggage, every weekend. Building owners profit from increased rents, but service workers see decreased compensation.

Contract negotiations continue. We will update you as information becomes available.