On Monday, Laborers’ Local 79 officials announced their support for Excluded No More, a piece of state legislation that sets up a program to provide unemployment benefits to undocumented immigrant workers.

The state needs $3 billion to replenish the fund that made its way through the government last year, according to a study by the Immigrant Research Initiative.

New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul is proposing $2 billion in the state budget for lawmakers to allocate where they choose. Some elected officials believe that money should go to the Excluded Workers Fund. Others think it should go to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (or ERAP).

We know what side Mike Prohaska stands for.

“We’re proud to offer our support for the Excluded No More legislation. Our message to Gov. Hochul and the state legislature is: let’s get it done,” said Prohaska, business manager of Laborers’ Local 79, in an emailed statement. “This commonsense bill will not only empower immigrant workers who make up the lion’s share of the nonunion construction workforce in New York. It will also close the gap between union and nonunion contractors, enabling undocumented workers to file for unemployment benefits, organize more freely on the job, and contribute more to our state’s economy and recovery after COVID.”

Laborer’s Local 79 are skilled tradespeople who worked in construction around the five boroughs. Prohaska said that policies like this one will only help the union, the workers and anyone connected to Local 79.

“Excluded No More will level the playing field for responsible contractors who support their workers, regardless of immigration status, by paying into workers’ compensation, unemployment and payroll taxes.”

With no workers available to comment, Prohaska directed the AmNews to a story in amNewYork about a recent protest regarding exploitative working conditions at Chelsea Terminal Warehouse (in Manhattan’s West Chelsea) after demolition workers were “illegally” fired by demolition company Alba (a company with a history of exploitative practices according to a judge from the National Labor Relations Board). They also called out ECD NY and New Line
Structures, which are places with similar histories. Elected officials such as New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos and Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine attended.

Local 79 has other things on their plate as well.

Laborers continued to take their vision and desires to City Hall. The union teamed up with the Mason Tenders’ District Council of Greater New York and 100 Black Construction Workers on a campaign named #BuildOne45 to explain why the New York City Council should approve of a rezoning of the One45 development site, a proposed set of 365-foot towers on the corner of Lenox Avenue between West 144th and West 145th streets.

“When we #BuildOne45, we will empower Black construction workers, Black businesses, and Black households, while boosting public safety and our economy,” stated Barrie Smith, president of 100 Black Construction Workers, and an executive board member of Laborers’ Local 79. “That’s our message to elected officials and to our brothers and sisters in Harlem about why they should support this project. One45 will create good-paying union construction jobs, more affordable housing options for longtime Harlem residents, more space for Black-owned businesses, the city’s first green energy district, a nationally significant Civil Rights Museum, and new space for the National Action Network (NAN).

“Our campaign to #BuildOne45 is a campaign to build a better, fairer, and stronger future for Harlem and for our city.”

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