Update: A tentative labor agreement has been reached today, Tuesday, between the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations (RAB) and 32BJ SEIU for New York City’s 30,000 Residential Building Service Workers, a press release announced. “We have a deal!” 32BJ President Kyle Bragg said. Howard Rothschild, president of RAB said, “The industry is proud to have reached a fair agreement.” More to come!
By Carol Tannenhauser
I went downstairs early Tuesday morning to get the night doorman’s take on the impending building strike. To my surprise, I encountered a day doorman, looking tousled and tired.
“I’m the new Adalto,” he announced. Adalto, the night man, had recently retired. “You got the night shift?” I asked. “How do you feel about that? Did you choose it?” “My regular shift got cut during the pandemic,” he said. “I had to take it.” “At least you can be home all day with Emma,” I offered. Emma is his seven-year-old daughter. “You gotta sleep sometime,” he said, smiling. “So, how can I help you, ma’am?”
I lowered my voice in the empty lobby. “What do you hear about the strike?” I asked.
“This happens every four years,” he said, making clear he wasn’t too worried, and maybe I shouldn’t be, either. “They have to agree on a contract. They want to take some things away — sick and vacation days. And they want you to pay more when you go to the doctor. They always hype it, but it usually turns out okay and we keep it moving.”
But not always. There was a residential building strike in 1991 that lasted for 12 days, ending on May 3rd. On May 1st, the Los Angeles Times wrote,
“It began as one of the more genteel labor disputes this fractious city has witnessed. Many striking doormen, porters, elevator operators and handymen were even treated to coffee and sweet rolls by apartment dwellers who were often their employers.”
But 11 days later, the paper reported, there was no end in sight. And so, irritated New Yorkers began “returning to form,” as the west coast Times described it.
“Strikers roughed up a private guard for operating an elevator at one Upper West Side building last week,” The Times reported. “Not far away, residents of another building returned the favor, pelting striking workers who were playing whiffle ball in front of the building with garbage and epithets.”
Closer to home, and perhaps a bit less excited about the city’s rough edges, The New York Times presented a more positive view on May 3rd, the day the strike ended.
“The union communicated quickly with its 30,000 members,” the paper reported, “and many had shifted enthusiastically from picketing to working by early evening. Richard Koch was back as the doorman at 465 West End Avenue, at 82nd Street, working his regular 4 P.M.-to-midnight shift.”
Back to 2022 and the eve of a possible strike: I went downstairs to walk the dog, using the opportunity to quiz the morning doorman. He told me that building workers are not paid during a strike, and they don’t get unemployment. “It’s a hardship for a lot of guys,” he said. “They have mortgages to pay and bills. They live from check to check. The uncertainty is very hard.” He shook his head. “I don’t want a strike. I don’t want a strike.”
The afternoon doorman was conflicted. He has a serious heart condition and doesn’t want his health care or providers changed. On the other hand, he remembers the strike of ’91, “walking up and down in front of the building — in front of the shareholders — shouting. It was embarrassing,” he said.
The building’s super is in a different union; he says if there’s a strike, he can’t do anything except in an emergency. He talks a lot about other workers not “crossing the fence.” He said FedEx and UPS likely won’t cross, nor will Amazon. His advice: send your packages through the U.S. Postal Service.
Most contractors won’t cross the picket line, the super said. So don’t have your place renovated now, and be prepared for a freeze if there is a strike.
The contract runs out at midnight on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.
Hold the Presses!
ABC7 has just reported,
Talks to avert a doorman strike in New York City “are progressing,” with hopes both sides will come to a resolution ahead of Wednesday’s strike deadline.
“I would say that things are progressing and hopefully as they continue to progress, we’ll find a path to a resolution of this agreement that these essential workers, they deserve and earn,” 32BJ-SEIU President Kyle Bragg, who represents the doormen, said on NY1 Tuesday morning.
It’s a sentiment that the Realty Advisory Board shares. “While we have made progress over the past few weeks of negotiations, we still have a gap to bridge,” said Howard Rothschild, President of the Realty Advisory Board in a statement. “We are committed to meeting with the union leadership every day to achieve a fair contract for both sides by April 20th.”
My super said they could beat the deadline, extend the deadline, or negotiate right up to the deadline. You better believe I’ll be standing with him in the lobby at 11:55 pm on Wednesday night, waiting to see if a union rep comes to pull the new night doorman off his post and onto a picket line.