Day laborers on the frontlines during COVID-19

A health and safety training course for women construction workers at WJP’s worker center in Williamsburg, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps through New York City, day laborers in construction are among those who bear the brunt of the impacts.

It took time for non-essential construction to be halted, and now that it has, construction on many sites continues – continuing to expose workers to the virus while the city is urging people stay at home.

A day after the order to stop work on non-essential sites took effect, for example, the buildings department received more than 900 appeals from developers and contractors, arguing their projects should count as essential.

Migrant construction workers often lack the safety protections, sick-pay, and union protections that help hold contractors accountable.

In this context, worker centers like the Workers Justice Project in Brooklyn play a crucial role. The Rights Here Project interviewed Ligia Guallpa, Executive Director of WJP, for Urban Omnibus. Read the full interview here.

As Ligia says: “We have built a strong community that understands the power of organizing and solidarity in times like this. Far too often, low-wage immigrant workers, who do not have access to available safety net programs, are left out of disaster responses while bearing the brunt of the difficult and dangerous work that comes in the wake of these disasters.”

Ligia has a clear vision for the future:

“My hope is that we can build a stronger workers’ movement: that there is a pathway for unionizing immigrant workers; that we build a new economy where there are opportunities for communities of color; that the construction industry becomes an industry of opportunity for women and communities of color; and that these jobs that are safer and more dignified for everybody.”

Read the full interview: “A Safe Space”, in Urban Omnibus

Several of the city’s worker centers have relief funds, for example:

Workers Justice Project, in Brooklyn
La Colmena, in Staten Island
NICE, in Queens

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