On Wednesday, thousands of SEIU Local 32BJ doorpersons, porters, superintendents and concierges gathered on Park Avenue in Manhattan for a rally to demand fair contracts. These essential residential workers are currently negotiating with the Real Estate Advisory Board to obtain wage increases and fully-employer-paid health insurance for themselves and their families.
The workers also raised the slogan of “no givebacks,” in response to bosses demanding they pay into their own health insurance and take cuts to paid time off. These workers deserve what they have already — and far more.
Indeed, these essential workers, who are predominantly Black and Brown, were on the front lines throughout the pandemic, putting their own and their community’s lives at risk every day. Ironically, many of them work in buildings on Billionaire’s Row, the area at the southern end of Central Park that’s home to many of New York’s wealthiest residents. These billionaires and millionaires sat at home during the pandemic, but they made record-breaking profits exploiting the labor force of essential workers.
The union contract covers all staff employed by the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, including porters, handymen and concierges. The board has properties in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Queens, and Staten Island.
In 1991, New York City’s last doorman strike was. Now, like many other workers in the United States, they’re demanding a wage increase “at least” tied to inflation, which in New York City sits at a rate of 5.1 percent.
These workers are able to join forces with other sectors. They’re natural allies of the tenants who are fighting against landlord abuses in a city with an acute housing crisis, and against Mayor Eric Adams The brutalization of the unhoused.
These workers have natural allies with essential workers. Building workers had many roles, including Covid lockdowns that kept their families in the buildings. They were able to become dog walkers, delivery men, and health aides. They now demand more from wealthy landlords in order to secure better conditions for their families.
“We’re essential now, we’re essential tomorrow.”
We’re on Park Avenue in NYC with residential workers with @32BJSEIUWorkers are staging a demonstration to demand a fair contract. After the rally, workers will vote to decide if they want to strike to fight for better working conditions. pic.twitter.com/JrHjEaQus2
— Left Voice (@left_voice) April 13, 2022
Residential building workers— thousands of doormen and women, supers, porters and more — today own the streets across blocks and blocks of #ParkAve on the Upper East Side, showing how, if we don’t get a fair contract, we WILL shut it down! #BuildingStrong pic.twitter.com/PnMWwLZZ0q
— 32BJ SEIU /// #UnionStrong 💪💪🏻💪🏽💪🏿 (@32BJSEIU) April 13, 2022
As the market recovers after the pandemic lull the rents have soared. The median rent in Manhattan is now at an all-time high, at $3,700 per month. It’s unacceptable that the very same real estate giants that squeeze tenants in New York City to make record profits now say they are unable to pay the very workers who run these buildings.
Following Wednesday’s rally, workers voted to authorize a strike. If a tentative agreement isn’t reached by April 20 — the day their current contract runs out — 30,000 of these residential workers will go on strike. The Teamsters, which represent UPS drivers and other unions, has supported workers, particularly doormen.
During the course of yesterday’s rally, Democratic party politicians took to the stage to show their solidarity with the workers. These Democrats have proven time and again that they are not on the side of workers but the bosses. Two of the most prominent Democrats in the area, Chuck Schumer, and Carolyn Maloney, spoke at the rally. They are close allies and beneficiaries of REBNY. REBNY is well-known for its opposition to tenant protections, affordable housing, housing rights, and other issues, so that real estate giants can continue making huge profits. Viewed in this context, these politicians’ support has nothing to do with the workers’ struggle, and everything to do with putting on a facade of progressiveness.
As Striketober As we saw last fall, the strike is one the most effective tools in the hands workers have. These workers could strike if they were to strike. It would have an impact on operations in more than 3,000 residential properties in the city, and over half a billion apartment units. This is a testament to the strategic power these workers possess.
Solidarity with NYC’s residential workers!