Since the coronavirus hit the United States, 32BJ members have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Union members work in essential jobs that are impossible to do from home—cleaning, maintaining and securing residential, office, school, public and government buildings up and down the East Coast.
Frankie Echevarria, a doorman at the Lafayette on East 9th Street in the Village told the New York Times what work during the coronavirus outbreak is like: “‘It’s scary and I’m nervous… I keep my distance, but I try to stay positive,’… [Mr. Echevarria] routinely dons latex gloves and lavishly deploys the building’s stock of Clorox to deter cross-contamination. Yet exposure to the coronavirus continues to hold added terror for him, he said, since his wife suffers from a serious immune disorder. ‘At the end of the day, though, we’re here to help.’”
Union members and their families have been highly exposed to COVID-19. From March through July 2020, 9,000 plan participants had diagnostic tests for COVID-19, and more than 800 were hospitalized with the virus. More than 150 32BJ members have passed away from COVID-19.
The outbreak has also had financial consequences throughout the real estate industry as many office workers are now working from home and some New York City residents have moved out of the city. In continued partnership and commitment to 32BJ members, the Health Fund’s Employer Trustees and Union Trustees have worked together to reduce the strain that COVID-19 has placed on union members by extending health coverage for participants to 150 days after a layoff, up from the standard 30 days of coverage after a layoff that the Health Fund provided before COVID-19 hit.
“It is not by any stretch of the imagination a typical employer-employee relationship,” Howard Rothschild, president of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, told the Los Angeles Times.