May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, takes place annually on May 1st to celebrate workers and reinforce our collective commitment to ensuring the rights of all people in the workplace. On May 1, 1886, 350,000 workers nationwide engaged in an organized stoppage of work, with the demand that employers adopt a standard eight-hour workday. Ten thousand of those organizers were in New York City.
In May Days past, rallies and marches peppered cities around the globe. This year, though New York State was on “PAUSE,” we saw immigrants continuing to serve our communities in their essential roles so that care and resources continue to reach folks in need, and so that those with the privilege of staying home are able to do so.
Over the past few weeks, we have seen more than ever how integral immigrant workers are to New York City, with 500,000 immigrant workers on the front lines of the pandemic in our city. We have also seen a recognition that what were once coined “low-skilled” are in fact the “essential” labor that are central to the economic engines of our city, country and globe.
Immigrant workers have created pathways for equity across the labor market and city. In lockstep with the City of New York, these movements have led to the passage of the city’s paid safe and sick leave legislation, a citywide $15 minimum wage, the development of the Workers’ Bill of Rights, and the passage of the Fair Workweek and Fast Food Deductions Law, which brought an end to unfair and exploitative scheduling practices in the fast-food and retail industries, and which allows workers to make direct contributions from their paycheck to nonprofit organizations. Even greater protections for immigrant workers are codified within the New York City Human Rights Law — the most comprehensive and inclusive in the nation, which prohibits discrimination in employment, including based on immigration status.
We must always celebrate the incredible strides we have made as a nation and a city to create and hold equitable space by, for, and with immigrant workers.
Access the Workers’ Bill of Rights in 15 languages and audio files in five indigenous languages at nyc.gov/site/dca/workers/workersrights/know-your-worker-rights.
Learn about additional city resources for immigrants impacted by COVID-19 by visiting nyc.gov/immigrants/coronavirus.
Our work to empower and support our immigrant communities continues. Reach out to us at AskMOIA@cityhall.nyc.gov and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @NYCImmigrants for timely, multilingual updates.
Bitta Mostofi is Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.