Day laborer centers in New York City to get a spruce up

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, alongside other elected officials and community groups, came to Bensonhurst on Monday, August 3 to announce that day laborer centers throughout New York City will be receiving a total of $500,000 in funding—the nation’s largest investment in day laborer centers to date.

According to the City Council, the half a million dollars in funding was allocated through the Day Laborer Initiative—a citywide budget initiative that sets out to support the development of existing day laborer centers and expand them throughout the five boroughs.

“Day laborers play a fundamental role in the construction, development and growth of our great city,” said Mark-Viverito at the Bay Community Center, one of the city’s first day laborer centers, located at the end of Bay Parkway near Ceasar’s Bay. The center opened in 2002 as a way of taking the workers off street corners where they waited for jobs, and also as a way of giving them security and making sure that those who were hired were in fact paid for the labor they performed.

“Beyond their hard work day in and day out, these laborers contribute so much to the vibrancy and richness of New York,” the speaker went on. “The funding for this initiative will continue to validate these centers as epicenters of workforce development for this community of workers.”

In keeping with the original goal of the day laborer centers, the $500,000 will fund services and improvements like “dignified physical space for day laborers to meet, referrals to jobs or support services, legal services to address issues such as wage theft, and workforce training and development,” according to material released by the City Council.

“The City Council’s allocation of $500,000 for this important initiative signals our commitment to the issues of workers—especially the most marginalized,” said Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, chair of the Committee on Immigration. “Day laborers, as we’ve seen and studied, are facing incredible hurdles to remain employed and provide for themselves and their loved ones. Creating centers where they can access services—in their language—will prove transformative to their development as workers and as members of our community.”

Several representatives from day laborer centers throughout the city were in attendance at the press conference as well, including the Workers Justice Project (WJP), the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agency, the New Immigrant Community Empowerment, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and the Staten Island Jobs Center, among others.

“This historic investment in day labor centers is a meaningful step to raise and enforce robust labor standards in an informal sector with non-traditional employment relations,” added Ligia Guallpa, WJP’s executive director. “It will allow entire communities to set fair wages, better working conditions and will improve the quality of life of workers and their families.”

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