The keynote speaker at IREM NY’s March meeting was Howard Rothschild, President of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations (RAB). The RAB represents the ownership of over 3100 residential apartment buildings on matters related to labor, and contract negotiations. With the current 32BJ contract approaching the expiration of its 4-year term on April 20, 2018, this is a timely topic for building management so that they can be better prepared. On behalf of ownership and management, the RAB team will be negotiating with Local Council 32BJ, the union representing maintenance staff. Mr. Rothschild told the assembled real estate professionals that both sides have historically taken a collaborative approach with negotiations in order to arrive at mutually acceptable contract terms. That hasn’t always resulted in successful outcomes, as evidenced by prior strikes, but he thought the historical track record of the RAB has been, on the whole, rather positive for the industry.
Notwithstanding the optimism which Mr. Rothschild starts all negotiations, he advised the group that they should have an action plan in place just in case there is a strike called. The union always seeks a strike authorization from its membership going into the negotiations so that it has the flexibility to negotiate effectively on behalf of its members. Similarly, the RAB seeks the support of the building owners by offering guidance and resources for proper preparation. For instance, implementation of the action plan should be obvious and well-communicated to the staff and residents. This instills confidence in the residents that they won’t be left high and dry in the event of a strike. Some of the action plan points mentioned were: engaging extra security to protect the property during a work stoppage, including suspending card access for union staff; enlisting volunteers from the residents to assist in some of the maintenance tasks such as taking out the garbage; reducing outside deliveries during the strike period to avoid possible conflicts with any pickets that might be set up; completing (or suspending) major projects within the building before the current contract ends; and ensuring everyone has an updated contact list to report unusual activities or events. One of the actions that the audience was advised to avoid is signing what’s referred to as a “Me 2” provision. Although this seems innocuous on the surface, that is being an agreement to accept the RAB/32BJ outcome for buildings not otherwise subject to the contract, if too many buildings sign on, the union has been known to use this as a negotiating point to pressure the RAB. Mr. Rothschild invited all of the attendees to contact the RAB (www.rabolr.com) for additional information on these and other points related to labor relations.
Contract negotiations with labor unions are a necessary aspect of most large residential buildings; the unions’ members provide critical functions so the residents are able to enjoy their homes in comfort. It is a tremendous benefit to the owners and managers of these buildings to have the RAB coordinate these negotiations to represent their interests, and arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome. There is strength in numbers, and it removes the personal conflict that might otherwise intrude if each building owner had to negotiate with the union independently. IREM’s core mission is to promote education and ethical practices within the real estate industry. As an advocate of best practices, represented by the integration of environmental, social and governance principles (ESG), IREM recognizes the importance of sharing information and expertise. Maintaining proper labor relations resides within the social component of ESG, and success helps to ensure our real estate investments achieve their peak performance. The Greater New York Chapter, IREM, was pleased to have benefitted from the information and guidance offered by Mr. Rothschild, and to have been able to share this with the Chapter’s members, partners and sponsors.
Nicholas E. Stolatis, CPM, RPA, LEED-AP
Greater New York Chapter, IREM