New York–There is a chance that at midnight tomorrow, thousands of doormen, concierges and handymen working in New York’s buildings could go on strike. The union and an industry association representing building owners (Realty Advisory Board) are trying to reach an agreement for a new four-year contract, which involves wages, health benefits, sick days and overtime rules.
Apartment communities in the city will feel a significant impact if the workers walk out, as renters in New York rely on their doormen and concierges to sign for packages and carry their luggage, besides just opening the doors and hailing cabs for them. Apartment managers in the city have briefed residents on the steps they would need to take if the strike is executed. ID cards have been dispatched and private security guards are ready to be deployed if the strike goes through.
“The steps we’re taking for a possible strike are definitely beyond what we’ve done in the past,” says Matt Nerzig of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union. The union represents doormen, superintendents, resident managers, porters, handymen and concierges at more than 3,200 apartment buildings across the city.
32BJ has been negotiating issues including cost of living wage increases, family health care and training and retirement funds, the statement said. The workers make an average of $40,000 a year, according to a statement by the union.
Howard Rothschild, president of the Realty Advisory Board, has said in various interviews that it won’t be clear right till the end whether the strike really will take place. But he is hopeful that the issues will be resolved in the end. “They want more days off, enhanced language in the contract to protect their members etc., but residential real estate industry is not doing well, whether it’s rentals, co-ops or condos. We have several proposals that are all focused on cost control for current employees and cost containment for future. Right now, it costs almost $70,000 a year for a porter or doorman, which is a lot of money. We want to contain the costs,” he said in one interview posted on YouTube.
But City Council Speaker Christine Quinn as well as the union believe that the economic downturn is “no excuse to deprive hard-working people and their families of a fair wage or essential benefits. More than 30,000 service workers keep our buildings clean, our tenants safe and our city running,” Quinn said in a statement.