Building Trades, Features, Health and Safety, New York, Retail, topslot

Unions Share Groceries With Non-Union Brothers & Sisters in Construction

May 8, 2020

By Naeisha Rose

New York, NY – Day laborers in Queens, the borough hardest hit by COVID-19, are out of work, but they are not being forgotten. Brothers and sisters from Laborers Local 79 and the New Immigrant Community Empowerment group [NICE], along with Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Corona) recently teamed up to deliver vital groceries to families in need.

Recently, in Queens, several labor Unions, and The New York Mets teamed up with the New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) and delivered care packages to vulnerable communities hit hard by the loss of work due to the coronavirus. Dozens of families of day laborers, domestic workers, and newly arrived immigrants received groceries and toiletries. (Photo by Michael Nigro)

LECET, Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW and Key Food have also lent a helping hand to the day laborers who are largely undocumented immigrants working in construction. Many of the workers live in Moya’s district, which covers Corona, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst — neighborhoods that health officials consider the epicenter of the virus.

Day laborers, because of their immigrant status, do not qualify for state or federal aid, according to NICE, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable and precarious immigrant workers. 

‘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,” Council Member Moya said. “I applaud the men and women at Local 79, New Immigrant Community Empowerment, LECET and RWDSU/UFCW Local 338 for showing what working-class heroes look like.”

The Construction & General Building Laborers’ Local 79 partnered with Moya and NICE to purchase 100 bags of groceries that were each valued at $100, according to Moya’s spokesman. 

“My union believes we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper,” said Mike Prohaska, business manager of Laborers Local 79. “And that’s why we won’t turn a blind eye to our brothers and sisters in need at NICE. While the government’s relief efforts leave immigrant workers behind, Local 79 will continue to do everything in our power to support organizations like NICE and their members.”

Local 338, which represent individuals working in retail, wholesale, factories, dairies, nursing homes, assisted livings, and pharmacies, assembled the non-perishable items, which include rice, coffee and non-perishable vegetable at the Food Universe supermarket in Jackson Heights located at 75-55 31st Ave.

“As essential workers living and working in some of the communities that have been hardest hit by this crisis, members of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW can speak firsthand to how much workers, particularly immigrant workers, and their families are struggling right now.” — John R. Durso, president of Local 338. (Photo by Michael Nigro)

“As essential workers living and working in some of the communities that have been hardest hit by this crisis, members of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW can speak firsthand to how much workers, particularly immigrant workers, and their families are struggling right now,” said John R. Durso, president of Local 338. “We are proud to have been able to play a small role in fostering a partnership with our brothers and sisters of the Laborers union, New Immigrant Community Empowerment, and Food Universe, which employs members of Local 338, to support this important community project and help workers.”

The Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust, which brings the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and its signatory contractors together to address issues of importance to both, helped Local 79, Moya and NICE to purchase and organize the distribution of the groceries, according to Moya’s spokesman. 

“There is dignity in all work and sadly it took COVID-19 for many people to realize that,” said Patrick Purcell, executive director of GNY & NYS LECET. “In construction, we see workers breaking themselves on taxpayer funded jobs for poverty-level wages. Where’s the dignity in that? As we reimagine our economy and the role construction and other workers play in society, we must value them accordingly and increase wages and benefits.”

Moya agrees. 

“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,” said Moya. 

May 8, 2020

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