With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana, hate crimes against Asians and NYPD immunity reforms, there’s a lot of political tension rumbling through New York. With so much going on, it’s easy to miss time sensitive movements that need all of our attention— like the successful hunger strike against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the rest of New York State’s government decision on handling minority workers.
The Fast for the Forgotten started March 16, workers and allies gathered in front of St. John the Divine in Manhattan, and began an ongoing hunger strike for justice. Being the final stage of a months-long campaign, the organizers are demanding $3.5 billion in funding for New York’s excluded workers in the NYS budget.
Since the beginning of the pandemic last March, undocumented New Yorkers and those recently released from incarceration have been excluded from federal and state pandemic relief. Construction workers, taxi drivers, street vendors, laundry workers, delivery workers and jobs alike— all considered essential during these trying times— have received zero pandemic relief. These essential, yet excluded workers have had a high risk of exposure since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, many of the workers make up a portion of the 48,000 deaths from the virus.
The Senate and Assembly included a $2.1 billion budget for funding excluded workers, but campaigners say it’s not enough.
“I am on a hunger strike to support excluded workers who, for a full year, have received no economic help,” said Hunger Striker Amador Rivas, a member of Make the Road New York, on the second day on strike. “They are hungry, and they can’t pay rent. New York State and the legislative leaders can and must pass the full $3.5 billion for the Excluded Workers Fund.”
According to campaigners, the $2.1 billion will not be sufficient in paying New York’s workers weekly at the same rate as those who receive unemployment.
“This is not a game,” said Ana Ramirez, a hunger striker and member of NY Communities for Change. “We’re not here for one day. We’re here for two days, for three days, for 10 days, for 100 days until we are heard and treated with dignity!”
As the number of days without food increased for supporters of the Excluded Workers Fund, so did their hunger for justice and equality. On April 6, after 22 long and tiring days of fast, the Fast for the Forgotten received its justice.
The #FundExcludedWorkers is calling it history making after a year long strife and almost month long hunger strike, New York’s excluded workers and their supporters finally get a taste of victory.