It’s time for a new contract, and Co-op City workers in the Bronx are looking for improvements.

Late last week, hundreds of superintendents, handypersons, porters and other essential workers in the Bronx voted in favor of authorizing a strike if their needs aren’t met on a new contract with Co-op City’s management, Riverbay Corporation.

“Health care is a cornerstone of 32BJ. We’ve had to fight for everything we have in our union contract: paid days off, health care, workplace protection, a pension,” stated 32BJ President Kyle Bragg. “We have no intention of giving up this battle, especially here in the Bronx—a borough that disproportionately bore the pandemic’s burden and economic downturn. We are thankful for the support of all our allies and partners as we fight for a just city and stand with us as part of that fight.”

32BJ SEIU members were joined by elected officials and labor leaders, including Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, New York City Council Member Kevin Riley (D-12), from Bronx Residential and Hudson Valley District Shirley Aldebol, 32BJ Secretary-Treasurer Manny Pastreich, and others.

Union leaders said they looked around the city for inspiration. All essential workers up for a new deal want wage increases and full health care with no givebacks. They saw other workers win a new contract with the Real Estate Advisory Board.

Co-op City recently refinanced loans and acquired $124 million for repairs and building improvements. Noel Ellison, general manager for Riverbay Corporation, said that there’s nothing to worry about.

“We recently got their proposals; we are reviewing them,” said Ellison. “We intend to negotiate in good faith and then we tend to believe that it won’t be much of an argument of where we’re going to go and I doubt that, that there’ll be a strike. But I think, you know, we’re feeling positive that we’ll be able to reach an agreement with the union shortly.”

Co-op City worker and 32BJ bargaining committee member Kimberly Hutchinson said the union had zero intention of dealing with pandemic-related economic and health recovery without a new contract that addresses their needs.

“When the Bronx bounces back, it will be because of the efforts of working people like myself and my colleagues,” stated Hutchinson. “It’s time for building management to acknowledge that truth and come to the table with a contract that respects our union and its members.”

For Ellison, everything is noise and theater and the deal will get done in no time.

“I think we’ve had a decent history of negotiating with 32 BJ,” said Ellison. “Number two: I think, you know, we recognize the good work that our 32 BJ workers have done particularly during this pandemic. So if there’s any issues we have, it’s monetary and we’ll review the proposals and basically, compare it to our budget. I’m not inclined to believe that if we’re going to be going to war over a contract I think we can come to an agreement relatively quickly.”

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