Potential NYC Doorman/Porter Strike

The New York City Doorman/Porter’s union, Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, is threatening to strike. The issues at hand are not unusual these days. What complicates the matter is real estate.

From Rented Spaces:

The union contends that in the four years since the last contract was negotiated, property values have increased for owners by 28 percent, while the cost of living has risen by 11 percent. The union wants a cost of living adjustment to their wages. Instead of salary freezes, the union is encouraging employers to lower their operating costs by taking advantage of a new “Green Buildings” training program that would teach building operators to save cash through making their buildings more energy efficient.

and from MSNBC:

The two sides are debating wages, health benefits, sick days and overtime rules. The industry association cites the failing real estate market and declining property values as reasons the owners can’t pay as much as the union wants. The union says the industry is fundamentally strong and the recession is over.

In doing the research for this post, I couldn’t help but notice the many snarky comments referring to the fur-laden society lady having to now open her own door, hail her own cab, etc. Truthfully, I find that these comments are less about insulting the aforementioned lady and more about how menial the job seems to be in the eyes of these writers.

That being said, there are far larger concerns that the door being opened for a tenant. Package and food delivery will be affected, but it’s the sanitation related issues that the city is scrambling to address.

From Forbes:

…the city’s public advocate, Bill de Blasio, announced a Web site pooling online resources for tenants who could be affected by a citywide strike of apartment building workers. In recent days, the RAB [Realty Advisory Board] has been circulating guidelines to assist owners and agents on how to prepare buildings and tenants for a possible strike. The booklet, available online from the RAB Web site, covers manual and freight elevators, security, arranging for fuel delivery, services for the elderly and the sick and, of course, trash.

“Garbage collection is a major problem during a strike,” the manual warns. “Often, sanitation employees refuse to cross a picket line to pick up garbage unless the Board of Health has declared a health emergency for the building.”

Not only sanitation employees, but also plumbers, exterminators, electricians, etc. These are the real issues that are at stake for tenants.

It’s really heading down to the wire. The contract expires in 4 days (April 20). There will be a strike in 5 days (April 21), if an agreement isn’t reached. One encouraging note: a strike was narrowly averted in 2006 when an agreement was reached at the very last minute. Let’s hope the same thing happens here.

Full disclosure: I live in a “Green Building” in New York City that employs a number of really wonderful doormen and porters, so I will definitely be watching this one and updating as information comes in.

Update: Well, no real update, but here’s some video:

Update 2: Strike averted. 12th hour agreements reached.

The talks went right up to the midnight strike deadline, as they often have in the past, with the union resisting the owners’ demands for cuts in health care and other benefits. In the end, the owners agreed to a new four-year contract that includes a total pay increase of nearly 10 percent and no significant cuts in benefits for the workers, an official with the union, Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, said.

Glad to hear it.