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Wake-up call

Caste of characters


Remember the good old days before neighborhoods like Park Slope were besmirched by the upgrade called "gentrification,” whose Generation FU "royals,” using "manifest destiny" fueled by racial narcissism enabled by economic clout, uprooted, outmuscled and drove out the existing residents, who fled to "them thar hills" of whatever urban scraps remained?

Time-warps are not always cozy nooks.

The coercive power of mere riches exceeds that of the State. The long-enduring, culture-grounded community, which had inherited the short end of the opportunity stick and been exploited as the butt of social justice misadventures hatched by some of the same two-timing advocates who, hiding behind the tin shield of hypocritical progressivism, had effectively been exiled by them.

The only thing missing was an official proclamation of eviction.

Upon erasure of the old Park Slope, settlers like Bill de Blasio became the new indigenous elite. The cafes there are full of quirky hipster Jacobins, frantically typing their confessional first novels, as if anybody cared, while nursing their vanilla bean custard pastries that sell for more than an average unredeemed SNAP check. 

Their other pet genre are opinion pieces that give copious lip-service to "equity" and reparation for the people whom they had unceremoniously booted from their own hearths. A few remain as nannies in the locales. They are known to the concierge of the condos of their employers, so they can penetrate the lobbies.

Park Slope became a caste of characters. But something splendid is stirring in Park Slope. It's happening at the Nitehawk Cinema. 

Over 100 employees, in every job category, are petitioning the National Labor Relations Board for official certification as a union, after management dismissed a request to voluntarily recognize it. This is a major development, not just for urban archaeologists, but all New Yorkers.

Their bargaining unit, which includes wait staff, line cooks, bartenders, porters, dishwashers and others, was organized with United Auto Workers Local 2179.

Management's short-sightedness and obstinacy had made it clear that they were not interested in amicable and informal solutions to the workers' sensible concerns about security and safety protocols, wage shafting, workload imbalances and the imposition of staffing practices that made adherence to violated understandings compulsory. 

Disciplinary and "accountability" issues were also cited in the union's letter to management and a demand for a $10.65 minimum wage to supplement tips. Part-timers are not eligible for health insurance, though employees are increasingly benefits-eligible in other workplaces.

As a rule, bosses claim that unions are not necessary, because workers will always be fairly rewarded for the merit of their performance, and bonuses commensurate with productivity are available, indeed inevitable. Yes, Monopoly money from the Bank of Knaves.

The Nitehawk Cinema is bustling while  movie theaters are undergoing mass extinction. After the weekend last year when Barbie and Oppenheimer opened to a combined quarter of a billion dollars in receipts,  Warner Brothers commended them recently as being "one of the top-performing theaters in the entire country,” observed staffer Alana Liu-Moskowitz. 

This theater in Park Slope (another Nighthawk location in Williamsburg, is non-unionized and unaffected) with its ambiance and dining facilities, and screening of quality independent, foreign films and wide-release mainstream movies. make it a vital community hub. Its lifeblood. 

Movie houses are moribund, as increasing numbers of viewers prefer streaming services and the weird intimacy of their hand-held devices. The Nitehawk in Park Slope needs to be preserved. It is more than a venue. It is a Phoenix awaiting the workers to kindle the flame of rebirth.

Unions are godsends, not only for their members, but also for unaffiliated managers who clean up on  the spoils of the labor negotiations of others. The rank-in-file do the heavy lifting for all workers. 

As The Chief reported recently, around 10,000 city managers with the New York City Managerial Employees Association got salary boosts, retroactivity, bonuses, paid family leave and improved parental leave benefits, thanks to the pattern established by District Council 37. 

Their president, Darrell L. Sims, congratulated City Hall on its having raised the morale of its members by limiting the "disparities" between their compensation and that of unionized workers.

Ah, the tonic of workplace symbiosis!

Sims credits his members with "providing extraordinary leadership,” running the "day-to-day and year-to-year public service operations of city government" and their "knowledge and wisdom" in fulfilling "the magnitude of their invaluable responsibilities" and "providing extraordinary leadership.” The emphasis on their imagined sacred mission of "leadership" is a common justification that bosses provide for their claim for higher executive pay. 

Sometimes it makes sense. 

In workplace hierarchies, supervisors rank above non-supervisors. But should this necessarily be the case? One job may not be above another. just different. Becoming a supervisor should rightfully, in many instances, be treated as a horizontal move, not a vertical one. 

Speaking only for myself, I feel this way about assistant principals relative to classroom teachers. 

Typically, supervisors bask in the sun of their subordinates' achievements. Rather than insist that his members were due far more substantial payouts than the non-managerial unionized workers, Sims said they should be "comparable" and there should be no "disparity.” Those words mean almost, but not quite the same thing. But considering the mindset of management generally, Sims sounds moderate,  not money grubbing.

Speaking of grub and money, consider the Department of Education's latest school cafeteria revolutionary dietary upgrade. Every 10 years or so, they come up with the same idea in slightly different verbal packaging. Marketing the menu pivot from pizza to chickpea stew as inspired by the quest for sound nourishment for our children, the city's $60 million cut to the school Office of Food and Nutrition Services was the actual decisive clincher. 

Maybe the $700 million annual tax break that has been a windfall for the TV and film production industry but non-profitable for the city, can be revisited to generate a few bucks towards the restoration of beef jerkies in school cafeterias.

Like so much else, it's largely about public relations, appearances and faddism, even though it is theoretically enlightened. But what's the point, because when students are ordered to pick up a full tray consisting of a balanced diet of items they don't want, or else be denied the chocolate milk they crave, they will dutifully do so, exit the serving area, and dump the whole tray in the garbage or on the floor. 

The public should know that overregulation by the DOE and Department of Health, vendor contracts and logistical operations inflate the cost of school food. Burritos will not stunt their intellectual, physical or moral development. No clinical trials or sous chefs needed. 

If otherwise properly disciplined children were occasionally to have a Snickers bar,  outlawed for our school vending machines, their bodies would process it as though it were brain food, no matter what the dietitian activists say.

With much of winter behind us, let's take wing to Park Slope, absorb a not-too-didactic film at the Nitehawk, thank the staff there for their service while trying not to thumb our noses at management, and take in a meal picked precisely because it would be banned in our schools.

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