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32BJ workers say No! to the bosses' capitalist crisis excuse

Published Dec 20, 2007 12:39 AM

On Dec. 12, about 15,000 members of Service Employees Local 32BJ marched from 42nd Street and Broadway to the Rockefeller Center offices of the owners of rich commercial properties in New York City. Some chanted, “32,” and others responded “BJ,” followed by “What do we want?” to which “Contract!” was the response.

It was a very militant and colorful march. Workers carried placards in Spanish, Polish and English.

These Service Employees union members clean, maintain and service huge commercial buildings around the clock. The local representing 26,000 multinational workers is demanding a decent contract. They have authorized a strike for New Year’s Day in New York City, New Jersey, and Stamford, Conn., if there is not a settlement. They are mobilizing to show their unity and strength again on Dec. 20.

The owners of more than 1,000 commercial office buildings make up the 70-year-old Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations. The New York Times reports that the RAB “cited Wall Street’s troubles, the subprime mortgage crisis and the country’s economic jitters” as a reason for not giving the workers a raise. “The industry ... could be facing a very stormy, choppy period,” Paul Salvatore, general counsel to the RAB, told the Times. (Dec. 11)

They are blaming the capitalist crisis—a crisis they along with Wall Street co-conspirators created—in order to continue superexploiting the service work force and deny the union’s modest demands.

Workers, organized and unorganized, take note. Bringing the economic capitalist crisis to the bargaining table is a portent that the bosses will crack down on the entire labor movement to make the workers pay for the growing capitalist crisis. This makes class-wide solidarity more urgent than ever.

“We tell them that a 1 percent increase in our compensation will cost them only about 2 cents a square foot,” said Local 32BJ President Mike Fishman. “That’s hardly anything compared with the increases they’ve received of more than $20 a square foot in rent since 2004.” (New York Times, Dec. 11)

The bosses are preparing a scab work force in an attempt to defeat the workers if they strike.

The RAB is made up of the vilest real-estate venture-vultures like Tishman Speyer, “a leading owner, developer, fund manager and operator of real estate in the world” according to Forbes. Speyer, in alliance with Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., has aggressively taken over Archstone-Smith Trust, the third biggest Real Estate Investment Trust in the U.S. Speyer has a global portfolio worth $20 billion.

As the capitalist ruling class attempts to further drive down the standard of living of the international working class, continuing illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the theft of pensions in the U.S. and abroad, the workers worldwide—in France, Spain, Germany, Greece, Latin America—have been staging militant fights back. Local 32BJ is challenging the bosses in the same spirit.

All progressive and pro-union forces should mobilize and support the workers of Local 32BJ in its just struggle for a decent contract and—most important—to combat the blatant assault on the working class by the capitalist vultures.