Bargaining Begins Now for New Union Contract

By Matt Ellis

This fall, AffinEco will again join with other building service contractors in Westchester, New York and Fairfield County, Connecticut to negotiate a new collective bargaining contract with the Service Employees Union International (SEIU), Local 32BJ. The current four-year contract expires on Dec. 31, 2019.

This year’s negotiations will be overshadowed by the recent death of the local union’s president, Hector Figueroa, who passed away in July. The New York Times referred to Figueroa as a “union leader with impact.” The NY Daily News called Figueroa “a powerhouse of New York politics.”

“He was a strong leader and his collaborative style set the tone for our negotiations,” said AffinEco Managing Partner Paul Senecal, who attended Figueroa’s funeral with partner Michael Diamond. Figueroa had been 32BJ president for seven years and part of the negotiating team for several labor agreements before then.

Negotiations for the new labor agreement will be handled by SEIU representatives and the Hudson Valley/Fairfield County Contractors Association. As with most labor agreements, this one will center on wage and benefit issues.

“The union is focused on making sure increases to their benefit fund match their actuarial projections and ensure the benefit fund stays out of the red zone,” said Senecal. “We agreed to an increase of between 3 and 3.5 percent in the last contract and expect the union to seek a similar increase this time.”

Senecal pointed out that janitors will receive a $0.30 per hour increase starting October 1, 2019, bringing the full-time rate to $16.05 per hour as a starting point for this new contract. This time, the contractor’s association will be seeking greater clarity on some administrative issues to make onsite operations more effective for all parties.

“Even though a union workforce increases our costs, we believe it provides much more stability in the buildings covered by the collective bargaining agreement,” Senecal said. “Because these are good jobs, people value them and we see that demonstrated in their work every day. It’s clear the workers have pride in their jobs.”

If the past few contract negotiations are any indication, talks could continue up to the deadline. Senecal believes negotiators on both sides will want to wrap up the talks before the Christmas holiday. Building owners and managers who have questions about the collective bargaining process – or specifics about the terms being negotiated – should contact AffinEco (or their building services contractor) directly.

“These talks are governed by the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board), so it’s best not to discuss the situation with workers onsite,” Senecal said.

Image courtesy of Grasshopper