Bronx Realty Advisory Board agrees not to reopen residential union contracts, avoiding strike

32BJ members gather during a strike authorization vote rally outside Bronx Supreme Court on Thursday, March 21, 2024.
32BJ members gather during a strike authorization vote rally outside Bronx Supreme Court on Thursday, March 21, 2024.
Photo Paul Frangipane

The Bronx Realty Advisory Board (BRAB) on Tuesday, April 2, announced it will not reopen residential workers’ union contracts — which will avert a strike employees said they were ready for last month.

The latest four-year contract was agreed upon in March 2023 in the final hours right before the 32BJ SEIU union — made up of 1,400 doorpeople, handy-persons, porters and superintendents — was set to go on strike. The Realty Board originally wanted to renegotiate last year’s contract with the union, citing “unfavorable” economic conditions and rising real estate industry costs.

But, on April 2 BRAB said its woes don’t reside with the 32BJ. 

“Our issues are with Albany – not the union or its membership,” BRAB President Billy Schur said in the announcement. “Rising interest and insurance rates, problems with vacancies, Housing Court, collection of arrears and a host of others coming out of the 2019 Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act have created a hostile environment for property owners throughout New York City – but especially here in the Bronx.”

Manny Pastreich, the 32BJ union president, told the Bronx Times in an interview that the group is relieved BRAB has decided to maintain their contracts and agreed that the main areas of improvement are structural ones. 

“Solutions need to be a part of comprehensive housing reform,” Pastreich said, which he believes include protecting tenants and also advocating for more affordable housing. 

The union president said the group received BRAB’s decision at around 7 p.m. on April 1, the day the board said it would aim to reopen contracts. When BRAB didn’t, Pastreich said a cheer rang out at the union’s meeting that same night. 

“32BJ is always ready for a good fight,” he said. “Everyone was very relieved and happy.” 

Pastreich said the union members feel “good” about the wages and benefits they received during last year’s high-stress bargaining process, and assert that maintaining their contracts protects what they worked toward. The current unionized contracts don’t expire until 2027.

BRAB is now calling on labor to join them in pushing the State Legislature for housing reform that works for property owners, employees, and tenants alike. 

“We want the men and women who work tirelessly to make affordable housing run smoothly in the Bronx and to be financially rewarded for the efforts, but Albany and the union leadership need to face the facts: these older buildings will not be able to stay afloat if current restrictions are not adjusted,” Schur said. “While they’re working on the budget and other legislation, we hope that our elected representatives remember that too and note that both buildings, as well as service workers, can only succeed in an environment that encourages and allows for reinvestment.”

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