The Doorman Strike: Media Predictably Goes Class Warfare

Yes, there are still ashes all over the North Atlantic, and the Goldman Sachs imbroglio is still stewing. But closer to home, there’s the “doorman” strike. And the New York Times -- though steadily morphing into the Pravda for the White House's Politburo -- manages to come closest to an objective description of this epochal event.

There are 3,200 co-op and condo buildings in New York City, serviced by 30,000 personnel represented by Local 32BJ of the (notorious) Service Employees International Union. Their wages average $40,000, and -- according to the Local’s opponent, the Realty Advisory Board -- reach up to $70,000 with benefits. (I wonder if either amount includes Christmas tips. That is a chunk of change, trust me.)

The Times piece opened with the Pollyannish sentiment that the strike could impose, by necessity, a spirit of cooperation in New York City’s co-ops and apartment buildings. Well, yes. Many disasters do that.  But the piece was free of the vitriol coming from the rest of the MSM, who have attacked the NYC co-op residents as if they were clinging to guns and religion. The NY Daily News’ was typical:

The city's doormen are prepared to abandon their posts, leaving nearly 1 million New Yorkers to open their own doors and hail their own cabs.

This gave me pause. Full disclosure: yes, I live in a co-op. Our very ordinary Upper West Side co-op just east of Broadway was actually built as servants’ quarters for the West End Avenue employers who would not share their palatial apartments with their maids. The past lingers: we still open our own doors and hail our own cabs. (Actually, we use the subway -- I am outside every morning waiting for the school bus, and I’ve never seen a single tenant hail a cab.) We do not have a doorman with white gloves and an operatic uniform. We do have a few hard-working guys running the elevator and helping the elderly and infirm (we have a lot of them) with hauling bags and doing minor repairs and getting rid of the trash and taking deliveries.

So you can imagine going online this week and discovering I was one of the filthy rich involved in the “doorman” crisis -- itself a biased misnomer, since doormen are a minority of the staff everywhere. It was not just the Daily News, clumsily trying to appeal to a shrinking blue-collar base: for some reason, the Brits pitched in with a vengeance:

Cisero Ross, a Fifth Avenue doorman for 25 years, said [his residents] " ... can fend for themselves. They can summon a cab. You just have to step into the road, put your hand out and something will come along."

And then there were the usual suspects: Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller John Liu, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and tenant rights activists joined on the steps of City Hall to voice concerns about a potential strike. Translation: “voice concerns about not spreading the wealth.” They castigated the realtors for an unwillingness to “give a fair contract.”

Who elected these people? Whom do they represent?

The main points of discord, according to the media, appear as follows:

1) Union members are asked to contribute 10 percent of their medical insurance payments.

2) There is no pension plan for new hires.

3) There has been a reduction of sick days from 10 to 5.

All the familiar stuff. Everybody’s in a depression; everybody should pitch in, which of course is never the unions’ position. After all, what good is a crisis if you can’t profit from it, right?

Indeed. OK, chalk this one up for paranoia: For twenty years the Realtor Board and the Local have found ways to accommodate each other without bankrupting the former or starving the latter. But in the year 2010, SEIU President Andy Stern is a bosom buddy of another president -- and is leaving his job soon. Is there a better way to show his street cred than to stage a Big Strike in the Big Apple?

Here’s the funny stuff the NYT seems to be getting after all: the Park Avenue oligarchs and their doormen are a presumptive Republican façade. I don’t poll fellow tenants, but from my occasional chats in the laundry room I strongly doubt there is a Republican in the building.

So if there is a pattern where SEIU follows the administration’s policies, it’s “kick the ally.” And why not? At our co-op we shall carry on, taking turns running the creakiest elevator you have ever seen, postponing the laundry, meeting delivery men outside (they would not cross the picket line), hauling our garbage fifteen floors down ... and I doubt one of my fellow tenants will blame Mr. O and the climate of class warfare he encourages.

The Messiah is above suspicion. Spread the wealth and carry your garbage.

Finally, one more plaudit for the Times piece. (Who knows if there will be another chance?) At least they had the decency to end on this note:

Mr. Ramos, 47, who lives in the Bronx, was a doorman for 20 years in an Upper West Side building, so he sympathized with the workers. But he added that he thought the union should accept a one-year pay freeze rather than walking out. In 1991, he said, the pay they lost during the strike canceled out much of the raises they eventually received. … “Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen. It’s going to be an inconvenience for everybody.”

I do suspect that more than one Times employee will have to take the stairs this week. We are in this together, after all.