Hailing Chen, who has fought for safety precautions for rideshare drivers and other essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, launched his campaign for City Council on Feb. 8 to represent Flushing in District 20.
Chen is running to replace term-limited City Councilman Peter Koo, who represents Council District 20 that includes the neighborhoods of downtown Flushing, Murray Hill and Queensboro Hill.
Chen has emerged as a voice for the rights of immigrants, many of whom are the workers and families who have kept New York City running amid the pandemic. During his speech by I.S. 237 at 46-21 Colden St. in Flushing, Chen said he will work for more affordable housing, top quality education, and enhanced services for seniors. He will also push to get Flushing’s small businesses the help they need for a strong and just recovery.
“We must fight for immigrants’ rights because we are a nation of immigrants,” Chen said. “We must fight for workers’ rights to make sure all New Yorkers can support their families and live safely during the pandemic and beyond.”
For the next few months, Chen will meet and listen to residents in the district to better understand their concerns on issues, such as providing good union job opportunities for workers and support for small businesses amid the pandemic.
Chen’s platform also includes issues on housing relief for tenants and homeowners; strong legal protections for immigrants and workers; protections for app-based drivers and delivery personnel; community-led safety effort; improvements in public transportation; high public quality education; and a Green New Deal to protect the environment and create new jobs.
According to Chen, he knows the firsthand struggles of immigrant workers and their families living in a city where rent and grocery bills rise faster than wages.
“Like many immigrants, I worked in restaurants to help support my family,” Chen said in a Youtube video released in December.
At the age of 14, Chen immigrated from China to New York City. He attended East West International for Studies in Flushing and went on to study at St. John’s University. After graduating, Chen began driving for Uber to repay his student loan. The low pay and long hours he and other Uber and Lyft drivers endured led Chen to organize with the Independent Drivers Guild, a machinist union affiliate.
“We had decided enough was enough. We organized to fight for fair pay, better benefits and worker protections,” Chen said.
During the pandemic, Chen has partnered with community organizations and benefit providers to help vulnerable workers who provide critical transportation to hospitals, grocery stores and workplaces.
“I learned that when ordinary people come together and fight, we win,” Chen said. “There is enough here for everyone to have healthcare, a college education, a home, and a role in their communities. We need to make sure we have support for workers, small businesses, tenants, homeowners, and everyone affected by COVID-19.”
Chen has been endorsed by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.