Taking out the trash

April 13, 2010 1:30:04 PM PDT
It was a strange adjustment, moving to New York City back in 1992, and having other people do work that I was used to doing. Like taking out the trash.

Or finding people to fix a leak.

It took a while to adjust to having people working in the building. And it was clear, quickly, that it wasn't just the hoity toity buildings that employed staff. For a building to function properly, it needed maintenance workers; no matter whether the residents were upper crust or working class.

Such an interesting relationship between apartment dwellers and the building workers. A close relationship, it sometimes seems, even though the social boundaries are supposed to be strict. If the building has a superintendent, he (they're almost always "he's") usually lives in the building. The handymen and the porters and the doormen see kids born and grow up and have families of their own. Similarly, residents get to know the workers, and their families. At my building, built in 1915 with a center courtyard, we have an annual residents and staff BBQ and picnic. Everyone brings their kids and it's like one big family.

And then every three years something strange happens. The labor contract for the workers comes due and the residents who like and often love the doormen and handymen, people who make their lives easier, take steps to take over their jobs. A strike is almost always threatened, ID's are passed out, keys to the front doors are made, warnings go out that no remodeling or construction can happen, and apartment guests should be kept to a minimum. And, oh, yeah, you have to take out your own trash.

(I often wonder what my mom would have said if she had lived long enough to see me NOT take out my own garbage! This, after all those years of taking out the trash being a required chore.)

We're at that point again this week. Tonight, thousands of workers are rallying on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, asking for a fair labor contract. If it were up to the people who live where the doormen work, they'd be paid fairly with no cuts in benefits. But the residents have no control over the contract. Nada. Zippo. No voice whatsoever. Instead, a consortium of real estate management companies does all the bidding. So it becomes something of a war.

Neither the workers nor the residents want a strike. But that seems beside the point.

Like it does every few years, talks will go down to the wire, and then we'll see. They'll either strike or reach an 11th hour settlement when the contract expires at midnight a week from tonight.

Tonight we'll have the latest on the impasse so far, and on the workers' rally.

Also at 11, we're in Rockland County, where doormen seem a world away, and where parents and teachers at Pearl River High School are trying to work some preventative magic to curb drinking on prom nights.

First effort: Scheduling the junior and senior proms on school nights the junior dance tomorrow night, the senior event on Sunday, June 6.

Second effort: Strict attendance taking the mornings after. Students will be met by the principal and a rep from the P.T.A. And anyone not on campus by 7:34 a.m. sharp won't be able to make up academic work or participate in sports that day.

Not every student thinks this is a grand idea. In fact, some of the students plan to skip a prom that happens on a school night. So, is this the answer to prevent drinking and carousing? We'll take a closer look, tonight at 11.

And we're also looking at hair loss remedies. Two-thirds of men start losing their hair before they turn 35, men are expected to just grin and bear it. But not all men do that. Some try to fight nature. Hair loss prevention is a multi-billion dollar business. Tonight, Consumer Reports tests which so-called remedies work best, if they work at all.

And finally, just how far has Sarah Palin come in the past 18 months, since she was plucked from relative obscurity to become John McCain's running mate? The demands of her speaking contract have been discovered in a dumpster at California State University at Stanislaus. And Mick Jagger would be proud. Or maybe jealous.

To quote from the ABC News website entry on the dust-up:

"One of the many requirements that must be met for the former vice presidential hopeful: two unopened bottles of still water and 'bendable straws' must be waiting on a wooden lectern.

"That was just one item among the pages of elaborate demands that must be met to land a contract for Palin to come speak at an event. More costly were the requirement for her travel the venue must supply her with business or first class commercial airfare, or with a private plane. And not just any jet will do.

"The private aircraft MUST BE a Lear 60 or larger (as defined by interior cabin space) for West Coast Events; or, a Hawker 800 or Larger (as defined by interior cabin space for) East Coast Events, and both are subject to the Speaker's approval. The Speaker 'reserves the right to change the flight plans at any time,' the contract states."


We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports, including highlights from today's Yankees home opener. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.