City Councilman Francisco Moya along with labor unions and immigrant advocates on Wednesday delivered groceries to immigrant day laborers in Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona — three neighborhoods at the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis.
Moya partnered with Laborers’ Local 79 and the New Immigrant Empowerment (NICE) to purchase and deliver bags of $100 worth of groceries that included non-perishable items such as rice, canned vegetables, and coffee.
The bags of groceries were assembled by members of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW at Food Universe in Jackson Heights.
“We are proud to have been able to play a small role in fostering a partnership with our brothers and sisters and sisters of the Laborers Union, New Immigrant Community Empowerment, and Food Universe, which employs members of Local 338, to support the important community project and help workers in need.”
As COVID-19 keeps construction sites shuttered and many day laborers at home, immigrant workers and their families are struggling financially because of lost income, and exclusion from government aid.
According to Moya, recovery from COVID-19 must boost wages, benefits, and job quality for construction workers on development projects funded with taxpayer dollars.
“The pandemic has demolished almost any semblance of normalcy, but the one thing that’s been constant throughout is brothers and sisters in the construction industry having each other’s backs,” Moya said. “This aid, however, shouldn’t be necessary. Workers who put their lives on the line for their communities on a daily basis should be earning fair wages, have access to quality and affordable healthcare and shouldn’t be getting carved out of federal COVID-19 relief efforts. They’ve earned these basic dignities.”
NICE has been fighting on the frontlines for food and PPE as coronavirus wreaks havoc on their day laborer members — many of whom don’t qualify for state or federal stimulus aid, because of their immigration status.
For undocumented workers with no safety net or union protections, the job loss that accompanied the coronavirus pandemic has meant immediate food insecurity for workers and their families, according to Manuel Castro, executive director of NICE.
“The Laborers Union has stood with us to demand an end to wage theft, and stricter employer accountability for unsafe working conditions because they understand raising the floor for the most vulnerable lifts us all up. We are grateful for their continued solidarity during this unprecedented crisis, proving once again they stand with all workers.”
Mike Prohaska, business manager of Laborers Local 79, said while the government’s relief efforts leave immigrant workers behind, Local 79 will continue to do everything in their power to support organizations like NICE and their members.
“My union believes we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper,” Prohaska said. “And that’s why we won’t turn a blind eye to our brother’s and sister’s in need at NICE.”