Monday, April 18, 1994
Building Employee Local 32B Contract Expires April 20
By the time you read this, your building's maintenance staff may be out on your sidewalk, picketing you. The contracts of Building Service Employee Union Local 32B-32J, to which many of our neighborhood's building employees belong, expire on Midnight, April 20. Stuyvesant Town is not affected. The employees covered are doormen, porters and handymen (superintendents belong to a different union).There are active negotiations between the union and the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations, Inc., the association to which most of the area buildings belong. However, the last time, in 1991, the talks resulted in a two-week strike, with no apprecable gains for the union members, and one should be prepared for the possibility of another strike in 1994.
The main contingencies that tenants should recognize and organize for, and building management should provide for are security and garbage disposal. A doorman building should have a security guard, and distribute passes to tenants. A friendlier but more difficult to administer security method is to have tenant volunteers at the door, but you will end up overworking the poor mothers who will be the only ones available to cover during business hours. A combination of guards and volunteers is best. If a building is skipping nighttime guard service, front door keys (if the door is lockable) should be provided to all tenants. Tenants should also alert delivery people and visitors to call ahead, so that the tenant can be reached upon arrival.
Tenants in buildings that have no doormen should exercise extra caution in buzzing in visitors. When an unexpected delivery is announced, it is best to come down and check the arrival's bona fides through the door pane.
For garbage disposal the best method is to have the building reserve a dumpster, to be delivered and placed in front of the building when the strike is imminent. The tenants then can take their garbage down directly. Building management should also provide garbage bags and ask for floor captain volunteers on each floor, to handle the garbage problems of the elderly and feeble. Be advised that everybody on the street will try to use your dumpster. Also, for those tenants who have no access to a dumpster and do not want to save up their garbage - do not use the street-corner city garbage basket. You can -and will - be fined if you use it for household garbage. In 1991 many people ended up with $50 tickets because their mail was found in the street-corner basket.
Also, schedule your activities. If you have your kitchen remodeled, check with your building management whether your contractors will have access to elevators, and if not, write the contract so that the work is done before or after, but not overlapping the potential strike period. You don't want to be stuck with a half-finished kitchen or bathroom for the duration of a strike. Also, do your spring cleaning ahead of time; recycle your winter's aggregation of newspapers and magazines now.
Actually, a buiding employees' strike has some side benefits. You will meet and talk with your neighbors. If you want to meet potential eligible soulmates, volunteer for frequent door duty. If you just plain want to chat and have a chance to to tell what's on your mind -ditto. New Yorkers are tend to be distant; even if you like to be friendly, under normal circumstances you may be hesitant to bid "Good Morning" to an elevator-full of people in a who might give you the baleful eye and spoil your mood. Before, during and even for a few months after a strike people in elevators smile and chat with each other as though they were lifelong friends. In 1991, when I acted as the tenants' strike coordinator for my coop building, a nice old lady stopped me to say:"I had such a good time! When do we have the next strike?" I promptly sent her off to Beth Israel Hospital - to be a volunteer, that is.
Some day let's do a volunteer activities directory for this area. If you want to tell me about your group, please write to me, c/o Hagedorn Communications, One Madison Ave, NYC 10010.