MANHATTAN - Workers from the Service Employees International Union rallied for higher wages outside the Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan Thursday.

The union represents service staff, janitors and cleaning staff in commercial buildings across the borough. Their current contract expires at the end of December, and the workers say they?re fighting for pay increases that will keep pace with inflation and the growing cost of living in the city.

Representatives for the union say their pay is not in line with their peers in other cities. ?When it?s adjusted for inflation, our real wages are below Chicago, below Philadelphia,? said union member Hector Figueroa. ?That?s what we?re trying to address in these negotiations.?

The Realty Advisory Board, which represents the building owners, responded to the protesters on Thursday when President James Berg said, ?Workers in Local 32BJ are already the best compensated building service workers in the nation. Right now, when everything is added up, it costs building owners more than $66,000 a year to employ a porter.? The board also said that the workers do not contribute to their health insurance coverage.

Many workers say striking is not something they want to do, but they are prepared to walk off the job if a contract agreement isn?t reached. Representatives for the union say the potential of a strike happening on Dec. 31 is very high.