Publication: Daily News
New York State’s moral compass can be seen in the way that we treat our most vulnerable populations, especially during a time of crisis. The laws and policies that our representatives are implementing both at the city and state level right now are telling of our priorities during this pandemic. As a society, we can say that we value every life, but when vulnerable lives are the first people we compromise, it is clear that we need to restructure our priorities.
Earlier today, March 26, Gov. Cuomo announced that he is “looking at” changing his executive order from last week that allowed construction to continue throughout the city despite health-care experts’ continuous recommendations for people to stay indoors whenever possible.
Cuomo’s executive order, “New York on Pause,” includes a 10-point policy and directive for all non-essential businesses statewide to close in-office personnel functions. While this executive order protects most New Yorkers, it designates construction work as “essential,” ultimately endangering the lives of construction workers and their families, many of whom are immigrants.
This directive is a clear demonstration of our society’s willingness to classify blue-collar workers as “essential” only when it’s beneficial to their pockets.
It wouldn’t be the first time we have let construction workers remain at risk. In New York City, “the private construction industry sector has the highest number of workplace fatalities,” representing 20% of all occupational fatalities in the state of New York, and in the last five years, work-related injuries have increased by over 200%. This is especially problematic because our construction force is made up of some of our most vulnerable populations. It is, for example, 77% immigrant.
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What makes this more appalling is the money connected to the industry. Real-estate developers are amongst the highest spenders in Washington, spending over $88 million dollars in lobbying efforts. These numbers paint the picture clearly: Suspending construction jobs by adding them to the list of non-essential businesses would put a dent in the profit made by developers.
Both of us have loved ones in this industry who are formerly incarcerated working alongside our undocumented brothers and sisters, putting their lives at risk every time they go to work. They are being asked to make an unconscionable choice: staying safe or providing for their family.
We are calling for a complete shutdown of all non-essential construction sites. Construction workers and their families deserve to be treated with the same care and concern as stockbrokers on Wall Street.