Bronx apartment building workers rally for contract, hold strike vote

Stephon Johnson | 3/7/2019, 11:07 a.m.

Bronx apartment building workers planned to rally Wednesday for a fair contract and to hold a vote to strike.

Approximately 1,000 Bronx residential workers were expected to attend the event with 32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa, other union leaders and members and elected officials such as Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and New York City Council Member Francisco Moya.

“Junior” Carescencio Bulnes, a superintendent at 137 W. 193rd St. for 38 years and one of the bargaining committee members, said that workers are ready to fight for their needs at the bargaining table.

“We’re always worried about what will happen during bargaining, but we are ready to fight because united we are strong,” said Bulnes in a statement. “After 38 years of bargaining, I haven’t lost once and I’m not expecting to lose this time. The superintendents in Bronx are just waiting for the moment to strike, if we have to, but we rather win a good contract.”

In February, 32BJ SEIU began contract negotiations with the Bronx Realty Advisor Board for fair minimum rates for new hires, a fair wage increase and the maintaining of health and pension benefits. When asked to comment on the situation, a spokesperson for the board said, “No comment.”

Alton Crawford, a superintendent at Jamie Towers Housing for 30 years, stated, “About a year ago I was hospitalized for six weeks with congestive heart failure. All my bills were covered with our health insurance and all I needed to do was pay the $40 copays. If it weren’t for the 32BJ health fund, the unthinkable would have happened. The hospital bill alone when I was in the ICU for six weeks was $200,000. Our health care is so important, it’s worth fighting for.”

The 3,000 Bronx building workers represented by 32BJ work in different types of buildings, including luxury apartments, rent-stabilized units, condos and co-ops. According to 32BJ officials, in the second half of 2017, Bronx investors spent $1.5 billion, which was an increase from the previous year. The Bronx population has grown over 25 percent in the past 25 years, and average residential prices passed their pre-recession peak for the first time in the second quarter of 2017.

Elpidio Molina, a superintendent at Amalgamated Housing for 38 years, said although conditions are better than when he first started, there’s still room for improvement.

“We’ve come a long way. I can remember when people in the Bronx were making just $5.25 an hour,” stated Molina. “Health care and our pensions are the most important now. The raises are only there while you’re working; the pension protects us long after that. I’m not going to retire for a long time, I’m too young, but when I do, I’ll need my pension so I’m fighting to keep it in this contract.”