Editor’s Note: Our editorial this week about the contract negotiations between building workers and the Realty Advisory Board has elicited some strong reactions, and we feel it necessary to clarify and elaborate on this for our readers on the East Side and West Side.
Everyone who owns an apartment in Manhattan, and this includes owners of buildings, has suffered due to the recession the past two years. The costs of heating oil and other resources continue to increase. These days, it has become harder and harder to make ends meet anywhere, especially living in Manhattan. Many people have either lost their jobs, or had their incomes cut in the past two years. Housing costs represent an increasingly disproportionate share of our living budgets. This, of course, is always tied to the costs of managing and maintaining our apartment buildings.
So, when it comes time to discuss a new contract for building workers, the desire to reward those hard workers must be tempered by the difficulties faced by co-op and condo owners, renters and building owners. This is not a year when anyone can afford to say that we need to follow the examples of the past, or to glibly say that wages and benefits must go up a certain amount; in fact, shared sacrifice must become the watchword of the day—not just in New York City, but across the whole state and the rest of the country.
We do not have a simple answer for this delicate negotiation. Our original editorial merely tried to point out that building workers often go overlooked and we must appreciate them in any way we can. We did not—and do not—advocate purely on their behalf and recognize there are two sides to this story, and thus to this negotiation.
What we attempted to advocate is that both sides should come to a fair conclusion that takes into account the difficulties and needs of apartment owners, renters and building owners in a way that is fair to them, while trying to help the building workers with their own struggles in this difficult economy. The Realty Advisory Board is made up of civic-minded New Yorkers, as is 32BJ (the building workers union), and we support both of their efforts to do the right thing for all sides of this complex issue.
We Need to Support Our Building Workers
Readers of this newspaper need no convincing that some of the most important people in our lives are the building workers who help secure and maintain the places where we live and work.
In fact, we are such big supporters of doormen, superintendents, resident managers, handymen, concierges and porters that we have created an annual awards ceremony to honor the finest of these local heroes.
The Building Workers of the Year, which has been an annual event for three years, always reminds us and our readers about the importance of these men and women who work so hard for us each day.
And now, as happens every few years, these workers’ contract is up for renewal and there is a chance that their efforts may not be justly rewarded. If an agreement is not reached by the end of April 20 with the Realty Advisory Board, an industry association representing most building owners in New York, a strike may affect more than 1 million New Yorkers living in more than 3,200 apartment buildings across the city.
We are aware that the city is in the midst of a recession and that all industries are struggling, but the real estate industry in New York has held up better than almost anywhere else in the country. In the four years since the last contract was negotiated, the value of residential real estate has grown by 28 percent in New York City. And vacancy rates are still very low: approximately just 1.6 percent.
So we encourage the Realty Advisory Board to negotiate a fair agreement with 32BJ, the largest property service workers union in the country. We need our doormen and supers and their colleagues to be able to live in the city and to worry about our safety and our buildings rather than how they will be able to pay for their families’ mounting costs of food and education. These men and women have worked hard these past four years and deserve a fair, judicious increase in their next contract.
We should always be thankful for these workers in our buildings; now is the time to support their efforts for a new contract that is fair and forward-looking.
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