Features, Health and Safety, Municipal Government, New York

Frontline Workers in NYC

March 27, 2020

By Stephanie West

New York, NY –  New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer has released a comprehensive report of New York City’s essential frontline workers helping battle the COVID-19 pandemic. These professionals work in public transit, health care, child care, grocery, pharmacy, sanitation, janitorial, utility, and delivery industries.

“As our City faces the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19, frontline workers are putting their safety on the line to keep our city running —  nurses, janitors, grocery clerks, child care staff, EMS workers, bus and truck drivers and so many more. And yet, these same essential workers whom we trust with our health, our nourishment, our loved ones, and our lives are too often ignored, underpaid, and overworked,” said Comptroller Stringer. “To get through this crisis and beyond, they need and deserve accessible healthcare and childcare, safe and reliable transit, financial stability and pathways to citizenship and naturalization. These New Yorkers are risking their own health and that of their families by putting their lives on the frontlines of this fight every single day — and we need to have their backs.”

According to Comptroller Stringer’s report,  more than 50 percent of frontline workers are foreign-born. Building-cleaning services employ the highest share of immigrants (70 percent), followed by healthcare (53 percent) and food and drug stores (53 percent).

More than 60 percent of all frontline workers in New York City are women, including 81 percent in the social services and 74 percent in healthcare.  More than 40 percent of transit employees are black while over 60 percent of cleaning workers are Hispanic.

Approximately 19 percent of frontline workers do not have citizenship status, often placing them in a precarious and frightening position in this age of arbitrary ICE crackdowns. Over a quarter of food and drug store, 22 percent of social service, and a striking 36 percent of cleaning service employees are non-citizens. Many frontline workers, including home health and child care providers and food delivery workers, operate as independent contractors. Not only does this obligate them to pay twice as much in Social Security and Medicare taxes, but it also provides them with few safety net protections if they are unable to work due to medical conditions or other factors. In order to protect these frontline workers—and all “gig workers” in this time of crisis, the Comptroller’s report recommends that the State expand its unemployment, healthcare, and other safety-net programs to cover independent contractors.

The NYC Comptroller has recommended that basic safety net protections must extend to New Yorkers regardless of immigration status, including those who are undocumented. An emergency relief fund could be established, said Stringer,  in partnership with private partners in order to circumvent federal restrictions.

March 27, 2020

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