Hunger Strikers Celebrate Victory as NY Announces the Nation’s First Excluded Worker Fund

By Indypendent Staff Apr 8, 2021

Undocumened workers and their allies celebrated victory Wednesday after state leaders finalized a $2.1 billion fund to assist New Yorkers previously barred from receiving government support during the pandemic. 

Yesterday’s festive rally at Washington Square Park also marked the end of a 23-day “Fast for the Forgotten” that marked the final escalation in the months-long campaign for workers who have been unable to access unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, and other federal and state economic relief programs. 

Video by Sue Brisk.

This fund, one of the central demands of the months-long, DSA-led Tax the Rich campaign, marks the first time that legislation has been enacted in the U.S. that acknowledges excluded workers. The left-leaning Fiscal Policy Institute estimates it could help as many as 290,000 workers across the state of New York with payments as high as $15,600. More than 200,000 of those workers live in New York City.

State Senator Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) was the lead sponsor in the Senate for the fund excluded worker bill. “What we want is the real implementation of a program in a way that is accessible, in a way that is clear,” Ramos said at yesterday’s rally. 

Governor Cuomo has announced that workers must be low-income and provide sufficient documentation to establish work-related eligibility and residency in the state.

Strikers broke their fast by eating modestly on Wednesday. They can’t immediately jump back into regular meals for health reasons.

Engaged in an act of constant protest, the hunger strikers and some supporters had been staying at churches together during the fast, mostly at Judson Memorial on Washington Sq. South. They participated in near-daily rallies, marches and actions to bring attention to their cause. 

More than 75 people joined over the course of the fast, including a core group of excluded workers. Assemblymember Marcela Mitanyes (D-Brooklyn) joined in the fast for the final 12 days of the strike. The primary organizers of the effort were Make the Road New York, the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition and New York Communities for Change; while members from many organizations worked to sustain the strike. 

Read Jessica Ramos’ press release that outlines the eligibility requirements to receive payment as an excluded worker. 

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