Brothers and Sisters,

For more than 24 years, the men and women of Local 79 have defined the meaning of “stronger together.” Together, we have fought for fair wages and safe working conditions. We have overcome challenges and faced down difficult times. We rebuilt our city in New York’s darkest days after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. We are strong, we are resilient and we are united – never forget that. 

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic is unprecedented for our entire nation. The regulations, rules and recommendations on how to respond to it change daily, and will continue to change. I know these are concerning times, and want to remind you that Local 79’s primary focus is YOU and your loved ones. Your union’s staff is still available to answer your phone calls.  Local 79’s Business Agents and Organizers are still in the field and available as long as job sites are open. We will continue to communicate important information to you as soon as we can. Your Local has always been committed to you, and we will not fail you now! 

We have made some important changes to our policies to ensure that Local 79 is addressing members’ needs in this challenging time.  After careful consideration the Executive Board decided to postpone the March membership meeting, close the office and move dues collection online. The usual credit card fee has been waived.  No member should feel that they have to work in conditions they feel are unsafe.  There will be no Out of Work list penalty under the Hiring Hall Rules for refusing jobs for which you are called.  Shop steward certifications are indefinitely extended. Additionally, the Mason Tenders Training Fund will be moving quickly to provide decontamination/site sanitizing training to members.

I am endlessly proud of how Local 79 answers our City’s call in times of need, crisis and uncertainty. Our skill, our resolve and our work ethic keep New York running. That has always been the truth; it will always be the truth. I know that together, and in solidarity, we will weather this storm.

We are posting a list of available resources for our members today and will be updating the list as more resources become available.  Be vigilant in caring for your physical and mental health and seek help if you need it. Your health and safety are dependent on it – and your brothers and sisters depend on you.  

COVID-19 Health & Safety Resources

COVID-19 Immediate Relief Resources

●      Unemployment Insurance.  Governor Cuomo has waived the seven-day waiting period for new unemployment claims.  Eligible members can file claims here. To that end, the DOL is implementing a new more efficient filing system based on the first letter of the applicant’s last name (alphabetical order).

  • A – F : Monday
  • G – N : Tuesday
  • O – Z : Wednesday
  • Missed your day : Thursday and Friday

Filing later in the week will not delay payments or affect the date of an individual’s claim, since all claims are effective on the Monday of the week in which they are filed.

DOL is also extending filing hours as follows:

  • Monday through Thursday 8 am to 7:30 pm.
  • Friday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
  • Saturday 7:30 am to 8:00 pm.    

Evictions suspension.  Starting Tuesday March 17, 2020, New York officials have indefinitely suspended pending eviction proceedings and the enforcement of pending orders. Developers that are part of  REBNY, which collectively own or manage  more than 150,000 rental units have pledged not to execute any warrant of eviction for the next 90 days. You can see if your landlord is included here.  A tenants’ rights English and Spanish hotline is also available most afternoons at 212-979-0611.

Limited State Debt-Collection Relief.  NY Attorney General James (“AG”) and Governor Cuomo announced that from March 16, 2020 through April 15, 2020, the AG will halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the State of New York.  People who owe other types of debts to the State of New York can file an application for relief with the AG’s office.

●     Food Bank NYC.  This organization maintains an extensive list of food pantries for families in need.  Individuals should reach out to organizations in their community to determine eligibility and availability.

Benefits Under Review / Planned

NYS is still working out implementation of these planned benefits.  We will be updating you as the final details are put into place.

  • Mortgage Relief.  On March 18, Gov. Cuomo announced plans to work with lenders on waiving mortgage payments for 90 days for homeowners who qualify as suffering financial hardship (i.e. not working or working only part time).  Not making a mortgage payment during this time would not affect your credit.  Missed payments would be made-up at “the back end” of the mortgage.  Members should reach out to their lender to see if they are eligible.
  • Foreclosures Postponed or Suspended.  Governor Cuomo also announced he will be working with lenders to postpone foreclosure proceedings for three months. 

For Parents of School Age Children

  • Grab-and-Go meals will be provided at over 400 locations.  Any student can pick up breakfast and lunch and dinner starting March 16 and continuing until further notice. Click here for info about locations
  • Monday, March 23: Remote learning launches, with additional guidance provided throughout the week of the 23rd.
  • NYCDOE-specific instructional resources in English for students in grades Pre-K through 12 are currently available online at More information about remote learning, meals, and other core services will be made available for families at
  • To help all students adjust to remote learning environments, Apple and T-Mobile will ensure that in the coming weeks, 300,000 New York City public school students who don’t currently have an internet-connected device will have one for their schoolwork, beginning with 25,000 iPads that will be distributed this week.

In safety and solidarity,

Mike Prohaska

Business Manager Laborers Local 79