How NY’s Fund for Excluded Workers Inspired Activists Across the US

Veronica was on a hunger strike for nearly three weeks when Ángeles Solis, the lead organizer of Make The Road NY, announced that New York State lawmaker and Governor Andrew Cuomo had been released approved a $ 2.1 billion fund for workers excluded from unemployment benefits, government stimulus checks and rent benefits You and 20 other strikers, mostly women, had slept at Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, and when they heard the news she said, “We hugged and cried with joy. ”

The hunger strike, which ended on April 7th, was staged by the Fund Excluded Workers (FEW) Coalition, which includes more than 200 organizations across the state. It began in March 2020 when immigrant organizations, labor groups and farm workers launched a tax campaign for the rich that sought to fund Covid-19 aid for workers who do not have access to most government benefits. Since their first direct action on May 1, which included a caravan and a protest in front of the home of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, for whom the pandemic was lucrative, organizations have repeatedly added their names to the effort. The cross-sectoral coalition now includes day laborers, taxi drivers, sex workers, street vendors and domestic workers.

Veronica, originally from Morelos, Mexico, came to New York 20 years ago. Before the pandemic, she cleaned eight households. Then on March 26th, a day she can still remember, her employers called her one by one and asked her to stay home. Suddenly she was out of work. She and her daughter immediately began rationing food, limiting themselves to two meals a day. She asked me, “How is a domestic worker supposed to do her job on Zoom?”

Although her daughter is a U.S. citizen, her undocumented status prevented her from receiving federal Covid-19 aid. The CARES law locked out US-born children with undocumented parents. Now, more than a year after the pandemic, Veronica owes over six months’ rent. Veronica and her daughter depend on emergency supplies to survive. “Everyone said, ‘This will also pass,’ but the only thing that happened is rent and bills,” she sighed.

According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, New York’s immigrant unemployment rate is 3 percentage points higher than the US-born population. And while it is impossible to quantify the rate among undocumented immigrants, it is almost certainly higher for this vulnerable group. Immigrants are focused on house and restaurant work and other sectors that have shrunk during the pandemic. The consequences across the country are massive. There are nearly 700,000 undocumented migrants in New York, and there are over half a million U.S. citizens in the state who, like Veronica’s daughter, live with at least one undocumented family member.

This historical Funds could offer much-needed help to the undocumented community. It is a direct result of the work of community organizers and workers who carried out food distribution relief efforts in addition to the hunger strike, shut down Bridges and orchestrated several Caravan to Albany. This law aims to help 300,000 immigrants who have been hailed as key workers and heroes of the pandemic but have been excluded from almost all forms of aid.

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