The jury is still out on whether vaguely "hip," "millennial-targeted" advertising actually works to market ultra-expensive apartments to young people. But the tactic is ubiquitous—so much so that a union is now poking fun. In the above video, Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, which represents doormen and other building staff in the city, has created what the New York Times calls an "almost shot-by-shot" parody of the ads for rentals at AVA High Line, a pricey new Chelsea building. Developer AvalonBay Communities doesn't employ union staff in its buildings, hence the spoof. It's an exaggeration, but not exactly a far cry from the actual ad, embedded below:
Whether you'd shell out a minimum of $3,270 for a studio—the cheapest offering in the building—for the privilege of in-unit charging stations and chalkboards is one thing. But with its "Ava in the Hood" campaign, 32BJ is hoping both to hurt the building's social capital and get residents thinking about the importance of union staff in buildings.
"We have to meet the residents on their turf," 32BJ president Héctor J. Figueroa tells the Times. "The way they exist in the world, it’s online, it’s on social media. So our tactics of outreach and building support have to live in that world, too." For their part, a rep for AvalonBay told the paper, "Our workers are nonunion, with different benefits, not worse benefits, and that includes not having to pay union dues out of their salaries."
While current AVA residents gushed to the Times about the staff ("Everybody seems so happy, and if they weren’t being treated right, I think we’d know," one renter says), it's worth keeping in mind that residents at another building that's been the target of labor protests, Arias Park Slope, have been less than impressed by the building's non-union staffers.
On a purely practical level, what does it really mean to live in a unionized building? As a rule, most management companies seem to find that you do get better service when the building's staff is union. If you're hoping to avoid work stoppages, understand that non-union building staff have been known to strike just the same as their organized labor counterparts. Another thing to keep in mind if you're buying: non-unionized staff can—and often do—vote to go union.
As for AVA's "DIY bucket"—in which residents can request a snazzily decorated bucket full of basic home improvement tools—well, that's an issue for a different article.