New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), a Jackson Heights-based nonprofit, worked with multiple trade unions on the initiative, including union members from the coalition Take It Back, to distribute groceries to 100 homebound immigrant families in Queens.
Take It Back includes the NY State Laborers Organizing Fund, Cement and Concrete Workers DC-16, Laborers Local 731, Laborers Local 1010, Laborers Local 79, Bricklayers Local 1, Tile, Marble and Terrazzo Local 7 and Local 12 Insulators.
“This pandemic has pushed us to the brink of a humanitarian crisis of poverty, hunger and coronavirus-related illness and death,” said Diana Moreno, director of worker rights at NICE. “As an immigrant worker rights organization in an anti-immigrant era, our own members and staff have had to act as first responders and disaster relief workers for one another.”
John Hutchings, director of NYSLOF, said in a statement that as construction workers, they know day laborers and non-union construction workers are also out of work and hurting.
He noted that well before the pandemic, non-union construction workers were vulnerable to workplace abuses, safety violations, discrimination and wage theft.
“Now COVID-19 puts them at risk of hunger as well,” Hutchings said. “For this reason, the time is now to do what is right.”
The groups were joined by local lawmakers, who noted the solidarity among union workers and immigrant day laborers.
“Undocumented construction workers are facing an unprecedented crisis right now,” said Councilman Francisc Moya, “but we can’t overlook that these New Yorkers are always living on the edge of a crisis because of anti-immigrant policies, wage theft and poor access to quality health care.”
State Senator Jessica Ramos, who has been providing weekly meals and groceries at her district office for constituents, said in a statement that working-class, immigrant and undocumented commuities have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.
“They make up the foundation of our economy,” she said, “and the least we can do in these difficult times is make sure to provide fresh food so that they can stay healthy.”
NICE worked with the Queens borough president’s office to supply the groceries. Acting Borough President Sharon Lee said the pandemic has highlighted some of the “best of Queens,” including partnerships between labor unions and community organizations working together to help the most vulnerable families.
“Only together can we effectively stem the tide of food insecurity,” Lee said, “while further building toward a stronger, more united workforce.”