New York, NY – If you’ve ever wondered why rents are so high in New York City, the latest episode of Blue Collar Buzz is
for you. On it, we have an extensive conversation with Ray Rogers, director of the watchdog group, Corporate Campaign, about the power the Real Estate Board of New York [REBNY] wields in this town — and why that’s not a good thing. We also talk to IATSE Local 1 sound engineer Eileen Macdonald about her experiences breaking into the trades as a woman 30 years ago. Finally, IBT Local 813 President Sean Campbell talks about ongoing efforts to reform NYC’s commercial trash collection industry.
With November 7’s election in NYC fast approaching, it’s a great time to begin to understand the enormous political power the Real Estate Board of New York exercises in this town.
“You look at REBNY’s big gala events and you’ll see the mayor and you’ll see the head of the City Council,” Rogers tells Blue Collar Buzz. “They would like to suggest that the money that they get from the real estate interests has no effect over the way that they think or the way that they vote. Well, that’s not true. Just look at the rezoning that’s going on right now. These rezoning policies are really causing panic, anger and frustration.”
And then there’s the ongoing opposition to virtually any kind of safety standards and or enhanced pieces of legislation aimed at benefitting the little guy.
“REBNY prides itself that the Small Business Jobs Survival Act has never come to a hearing or a vote — even though the majority of the City Council supports it,” Rogers says. “You have an estimated 1,000 to 1,200 small business a month shutting down, even though you have all of these buildings being warehoused — these mom and pop stores and office spaces. [They’re] just being warehoused knowing that the prices are going to be way up as they build these high-rise towers.”
Being a stagehand on Broadway is a tough and demanding job no matter who you are — but being a woman backstage presents even more challenges and down right injustices that strong women like Macdonald have had to confront.
“I did sound for five years before I met another woman engineer,” Macdonald tells Blue Collar Buzz. “I met a few stage managers, a few lighting designers. I just always thought they working somewhere else. I didn’t realize there weren’t many women. I loved what I was doing and really didn’t think too much of that at the time. In retrospect, I realize I was kind of a pioneer.”
Indeed. Despite her vast abilities, Macdonald encountered lots of resistance from many of her male colleagues that made the job harder that it had to be.
“Traveling across the country, depending on what part of the world you were in, we were treated differently. Sometimes, the men in the show wouldn’t talk to me at all. At other times, they were great. A lot of times, I had a man assistant and they would [only] talk to him.”
The American Dream is supposed to mean that each generation can expect to do better than the generation before — well, that, of course, is not happening. And NYC’s commercial trash collection industry is a good case in point.
“I used to make probably $27,000 give or take when I started in this industry,” Campbell tells Blue Collar Buzz. And now, almost 30 years later, these guys are starting out making that same money. And the work hasn’t gotten any easier — in fact, it’s gotten harder.”
Why? Campbell has some definite ideas about that.
“You have a lot of these low-road actors that really just don’t care. It’s really all about them and their bottom line — and that’s it.”
LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” airs every Sunday night from 9 to 10 p.m. on AM970 The Answer. Listen online at LaborPress.org, or check out the library of past episodes at www.am970theanswer.com.