Protestors disrupt NYS Dem Convention

Protestors at the NYS Dem Convention. Make the Road New York
Protestors at the NYS Dem Convention.
Make the Road New York

Excluded workers and tenants shook up the New York State Democratic Party Convention last Thursday at the Sheridan Hotel in midtown Manhattan, calling out Gov. Kathy Hochul for “choosing billionaire donors over workers and tenants,” according to the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition and Housing Justice for All.

During Gov. Hochul’s closing speech, the groups said “protestors flooded the room where Hochul was speaking, demanding the Governor back the Good Cause Eviction bill and additional support for excluded workers, including $3 billion for the Excluded Workers Fund and a permanent alternative to unemployment insurance dubbed ‘Excluded No More.’”

The Fund Excluded Workers Coalition and Housing Justice for All said the dozen protestors entering the room held signs calling on legislators to pass the two policies, while shouting “no money in the bank, no roof over our head!” and “Pass Good Cause! Pass Excluded No More!”

“Gov. Hochul failed to include any additional funding for the Excluded Workers Fund in her state budget and has not signaled a position on either Good Cause or Excluded No More,” said the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition and Housing Justice for All.

“I’ve been a street vendor for 20 years. During the pandemic I lost many customers and it became impossible to continue working and support my family. I had to rely on the help of others because I still had to pay $20,000 to rent a permit on the underground market to vend. I am scared of what will happen if COVID keeps going and I lose work again,” said Sabina Morales, a fruit and vegetable vendor from Corona, Queens and member of the Street Vendor Project, who spoke at the speakout last Wednesday.

“We have a responsibility to take care of each other and make sure our neighbors aren’t left out in times of crisis,” Morales added. “We’re here united today because when things get hard, we all still deserve to have a roof over our heads and a safety net to protect us. Gov. Hochul: stand with us – not with billionaires.”

At a related speakout on last Wednesday night, excluded workers and tenants related stories of how they’ve struggled over the course of the pandemic and called on Gov. Hochul to back the policies that would help them and their families get back on their feet.

Surrounded by boxes, suitcases, and furniture intended to represent a virtual “eviction,” participants also pointed to the more than $20 million that they claimed Hochul has received in contributions for her campaign.

The Fund Excluded Workers Coalition and Housing Justice for All said the Excluded No More (A9037 / S8165) legislation would let the state’s most vulnerable workers access compensation if they lose a job or income.

They said the legislation would affect three sets of workers – undocumented workers, documented workers paid off the books at certain employers, and self-employed workers making limited income.

“These workers currently cannot get access to assistance if they lose work, a gap underlined during the pandemic, when hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers were left to fend for themselves after being shut out of stimulus checks and unemployment support,” the groups said. “The program is estimated to cost $800 million in its first year, and any surplus would be rolled over to the following year.”

The Fund Excluded Workers Coalition and Housing Justice for All said more than 130,000 people across New York State have been approved for funding for the Excluded Workers Fund, with nearly all applicants receiving the higher tier of benefits available for the program – a one-time $15,600 payment before taxes.

“Yet the DOL (Department of Labor) has estimated that at least 75,000 applicants were denied due to insufficient funds,” the groups said. “This does not count the estimated hundreds of thousands of eligible excluded workers across the state who faced barriers in applying in time.”

Tenants, meanwhile, are demanding that Gov. Hochul support Good Cause Eviction (A5573 / S3082), which would stop landlords from evicting tenants for no cause, according to the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition and Housing Justice for All.

They said the legislation has gained urgency in the wake of the expiration of New York’s eviction moratorium, which ended on Jan. 15.

The Fund Excluded Workers Coalition and Housing Justice for All said the demands come as New York witnesses an unexpected surge in tax revenues.

They said tax receipts are on track to be $10 billion higher than expected in last year’s budget and, for the first time ever, the Executive Budget does not anticipate budget gaps in any of the next four fiscal years.

Participants at the speakout pointed to the state’s positive fiscal forecast to make the case that there is more than enough money to go around to invest in all New Yorkers.

“We’re tired of broken promises. Gov. Hochul said she’d give us a fresh start, but she has ignored us just like Cuomo. Last night Hochul had a warm bed to sleep in, but too many of us are left out here in the cold. We can’t afford to wait any longer for help. Governor Hochul must support Good Cause Eviction now,” said Dorca Reynoso, Inwood tenant leader at the Metropolitan Council on Housing.

Besides the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition and Housing Justice for All, the actions were supported by Make the Road NY, New York Communities for Change, Street Vendor Project, Mixteca, La Colmena, and the Metropolitan Council on Housing.

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