New York’s Essential Workers Stop Traffic to Secure Benefits, Pandemic Relief

Esenciales por siempre. Excluidos nunca más.

Essential forever. You are not allowed to exclude anyoneA striking orange banner was declared by the president.

This message was delivered to hundreds of workers and activists on March 8, by deliveristas and activists. Marched Over the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. The action stopped traffic for good reason: to secure $3 billion more for New York’s groundbreaking Excluded Workers Fund a permanent unemployment program for excluded workers in the state’s budget.

“During the pandemic, I witnessed coworkers, family members, and friends struggle to make ends meet because they were not fortunate enough to qualify for unemployment benefits,” recounted Laborers’ Local 79 organizer Alvaro GonzalezDuring the march. “And when stimulus checks got around, they were still excluded from those packages. It seemed that there was no hope. Finally, the Excluded Workers Fund came into being. But very quickly that hope went away: very few of the people I know actually got some funds, but the rest got told that there was no more money or they didn’t qualify. After being told that they were essential, they were left in the dark.”

Xichitl Gomez, a house cleaner, explained through translation that after she did not receive funds, she had no choice but to turn to food pantries — like countless other excluded workers before the fund’s creation.

After 23 days, strikers were able to secure $2.1 billion in state funding to help workers who are not eligible. breaking their fasts from wheelchairs in Washington Square Park. The next step was to implement and apply for benefits. This began in August.

Through comprehensive eligibility vetting — requiring submission of evidence like IDs, utility bills, and employer letters — around 130,000 recipients received the maximum benefit of $15,600. Two months later, the money ran dry. 95,000 applications left unfulfilled.

While cash relief remains urgent due to the pandemic — along with skyrocketing rents pricesthe coalition’s 2022, “2.0” incarnationThe $3 billion will be used to strengthen the hard-won Excluded Workers Fund. Their proposed legislation would allocate at least 30% of the funds to communities upstate and beyond New York City. This is because qualified individuals are less likely to receive relief in the first round. Emma Kreyche, Director, Advocacy Outreach and Education at the Worker Justice Center of New York. The fund would be more equitable if it addressed regional disparities in access.

Further, the coalition hopes that their victory will translate into longer-term protections of excluded workers, curtailing precarity that plagued them since long before Covid-19.

“We don’t need more relief programs. We need structural change and we need equity,” said Angeles SolisDuring a February interview with The Capitol Press Room, he was the lead organizer for Fund Excluded Workers. “We are talking about billions of dollars that have been put into social safety net programs that thousands of people cannot access. The passage of a permanent solution that will ensure that thousands of workers who contribute to our social safety net are covered in the social safety net.”

The FEW Coalition’s proposed unemployment insurance programTo pay $1,200 monthly payments of $1,200 to below-median-earning workers who are not eligible for traditional unemployment compensation due to their immigration status, cash payment or misclassification, the Excluded Worker Fund would apply the same eligibility criteria as the FEW Coalition. The FEW Coalition estimates It would cost $800 million to reach 50,000 people in the first year.

Experts believe that funding excluded workers would have a significant positive effect on labor arrangements — by empowering workers and regulating contractors. The Laborer’s Local 79 union leader Mike Prohaska called the bill “commonsense” for the largely immigrant-staffed “nonunion construction workforce.”

It will also close the gap between union and nonunion contractors, enabling undocumented workers to file for unemployment benefits, organize more freely on the job, and contribute more to our state’s economy and recovery after Covid,” Prohaska said. The law would also “level the playing field for responsible contractors who support their workers, regardless of immigration status, by paying into workers’ compensation, unemployment and payroll taxes.”