New York – Today, Laborers’ Local 79, which represents 10,000 construction workers in New York, announced its support for Excluded No More, state legislation that would set up a new program to provide unemployment compensation to workers, including undocumented immigrant workers, who are currently excluded from the unemployment insurance system. Laborers’ Local 79 made the following statement on the Excluded No More bill:
“We’re proud to offer our support for the Excluded No More legislation. Our message to Governor Hochul and the state legislature is: let’s get it done. This commonsense bill will not only empower immigrant workers who make up the lion’s share of the nonunion construction workforce in New York. It will also close the gap between union and nonunion contractors, enabling undocumented workers to file for unemployment benefits, organize more freely on the job, and contribute more to our state’s economy and recovery after COVID. Excluded No More will level the playing field for responsible contractors who support their workers, regardless of immigration status, by paying into workers’ compensation, unemployment and payroll taxes,” said Mike Prohaska, Business Manager of Laborers’ Local 79.
“Too often, in the construction industry, we encounter low-road contractors like Alba who exploit the immigration status of nonunion workers to pay lower wages off the books, avoid paying into unemployment insurance, and fire workers for trying to organize. When these immigrant workers are fired, they have no access to a safety net. That’s exactly what happened recently with the demolition workers – los demolicionistas – at Terminal Warehouse in Manhattan. These employees of Alba were fired for speaking out against the exploitation they and co-workers faced on the job, including the company’s horrific threats against those who filed for workers’ compensation. In visible areas of the Terminal Warehouse where the demolicionistas could see them, Alba posted menacing fliers offering a $5,000 bounty to any current worker who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of one of their previous co-workers. The Excluded No More bill would enable the state to protect vulnerable workers like the demolicionistas at Terminal Warehouse, and crack down on dangerous contractors like Alba. Indeed, if Excluded No More were already law in our state, the demolicionistas at Alba would have the option to start a labor dispute regarding wage theft, misclassification, retaliation, or other violations of their rights as workers,” said Prohaska.
Construction and General Building Laborers’ Local 79 serves the five boroughs of New York City. Currently, the union has nearly 10,000 members, and is the largest Laborers’ Local in North America. More than 65 percent of current Local 79 members are people of color, and more than 70 percent live in the five boroughs. The workers who become members of this union operate as skilled tradespeople who perform a number of vital jobs to ensure that buildings are constructed safely and effectively. Local 79’s scope of work includes: mason tending; interior and total demolition; plasterer tending; fireproofing; scaffolding; restoration work. For more information, please visit: www.local79.org/