NEW YORK CITY-Some one million New York City apartment dwellers are going to have to get used to hailing their own cabs. The 28,000-strong SEIU Local 32BJ, representing doormen, elevator operators and janitors, called a strike at 12:01 this morning after weeks of talks broke down at the 11th hour.

When negotiators walked away from the table, still unresolved were got a pretty clear sense of the direction the talks were going in early yesterday morning, when a union official explained that both sides were still far apart and that he wasn’t “optimistic.” This despite his revelation that some ground had been made on wages.

Despite the troubled times of the economy and the real estate market in town, the union clearly felt justified asking for wage increases. Union president Mike Fishman had previously noted that, “The residential real estate industry is holding up well despite New York City’s shaky economy. Property-value increases far surpass inflation.

“But those who take care of the apartment buildings and residents are making wages that barely keep pace with inflation,” he continued. “Thanks to inflation, and rising costs, we’re bringing home less for our families.” Fishman quoted studies revealing that a single parent with two children in Manhattan would require a minimum income of $48,396 annually. But he claimed that most apartment workers’ wages “fall far short of that standard. A starting porter, for example, earns $27,482 a year.”

The safety and security training has been a growing concern since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the union sees itself as shouldering more responsibility for maintaining building security. As talks were heating up, Fishman stated that “Our contract must reflect the increasingly visible, front-line role we play in keeping buildings and residents safe and secure.”

Up until relatively recently in the negotiations, representatives of ownership, while taking the talks seriously, saw the union move as commonplace pre-contract sparring. Jim Berg, president of RAB, told at the time that, “Basically, the possibility of a strike occurs each time a contract comes up. It’ doesn’t mean there’s going to be one. It only means they have the authority to do that.”

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