Undocumented Clean Up Workers Are The "Forgotten Heroes" of 9/11 Attack

The metal beams of the south tower stood in the middle of the debris like carcasses, María Ernestina Hernandez, 41 at the time, observed. It was September 12, 2001 and she had been taken by an independent contractor, recommended by her friend, to help clean businesses on Cortland Street, an area which had been covered with a billowing white-dust. At the start of what would be a six-month employment journey, Hernandez felt like a hero. She remembers dusting off keyboards, monitors, and stacks of

Street Vendors Occupy Corona Plaza to Protest NYC Crackdown

Every day, Corona Plaza in Queens becomes a bustling food mecca serving hungry visitors and working-class immigrant communities alike. Nearly a hundred food vendors usually crowd the small plaza transforming it into an eclectic, informal market simmering with the aroma of juicy tacos de birria and cheesy arepas de queso. The vendors seem synchronized to the rhythms of Mexican Grupero or Caribbean Salsa music that reverberates throughout the square. Also Read: Street Vendors Fight for Public Spa

Street Vendors Fight for Public Space Outside Hudson Yards

For the past two months, Mohamed Awad has been issued a barrage of tickets from the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation on a nearly daily basis for refusing to move the last of the three food carts that he has operated outside Bella Abzug Park, on the corner of the 33rd Street between Tenth and Eleventh avenues, since 2015. Since the grand opening of Hudson Yards’ first phase in 2019, Awad has been in a tug of war with the neighborhood’s business improvement district over his right t

Immigrant Residents Move to Stop Coney Island Casino Bid

Inside a small taco stand located in the heart of the Coney Island amusement district, a small but vocal group of community members gathered over a platter of tacos al pastor, to discuss how a proposed casino would affect their lives. Also Read: Immigrant Residents in Queens Say a Casino Will Harm Their Communities “They will push us out and push local business out,” Jenny Hernandez, 30, said at the event. She has lived in Coney Island since she immigrated with her family from Mexico when she

Swissport LaGuardia Airport Workers Announce Strike

Beginning at 4:30 a.m. Thursday morning, dozens of LaGuardia Airport ramp and cabin workers walked off the job in a dramatic escalation of a years-long struggle for fair wages and safe working conditions at one of the nation’s busiest airports. The workers, who are represented by 32BJ SEIU, say they are going on a 24-hour strike because they are fed up with their employer, Swissport USA. They say the company has committed repeated acts of retaliation, interrogations, and other unfair labor prac

Obscure Law Enables Herald Square’s Private Security to Issue Street Vendors Tickets

Street vendors like Mohamed Ahmed have to contend with New York City’s byzantine rules related to their trade. Many regularly find themselves in the drab offices of the New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) in Downtown Manhattan where they try to argue their way out of fines issued by the NYPD and the Department of Sanitation. To vendors like Ahmed, who grills chicken and other food on 34th Street, NYPD and DOS officers is a familiar sight and the cost of doing busine

No Safe Bet: Immigrant Residents in Queens Say a Casino Will Harm Their Communities

Mets owner Steven Cohen really wants to build a casino in Queens. To make his dream a reality, he has launched a multi-million dollar campaign to sway Queens elected officials, the city, and the state into letting him build the casino on a 50-acre city-owned parking lot next to Citi Field which is legally registered as public parkland. But a growing coalition of immigrant-led community, civic and environmental groups have vowed to stop the plan. As of yet, there is no exact time frame for when

Why Immigrant Doctors Threatened to Strike at Two Hospitals in Queens

During the first wave of Covid-19, Queens hospitals were on the frontlines of the pandemic. Although they were celebrated as essential workers, some first-year physician residents were only making between $15 and $17 an hour while they routinely worked 80-hour weeks. Nearly three years later, about 300 resident physicians and fellows at Jamaica and Flushing Hospitals have won a new contract after threatening to walk off the job if their demands for better wages and improved working conditions w

Unions Fight to Include Wage Theft in U-Visa Program

Advocates celebrated on Feb. 13 when the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced they would be issuing U-Visa certifications in support of undocumented workers who experienced workplace abuses. But soon, they learned that a key element was missing: wage theft, an issue that affects tens of thousands of workers in New York State per year, would not qualify. “We most certainly wish that the DOL would consider wage theft as a qualifying crime for U- and T-Visa certifications,”

Immigrant Workers Lead Strike Against Billionaire Catsimatidis

André Soleyn, 55, and two dozen of his fellow United Metro Energy Corp. workers never wanted to go on strike in the first place. After the workers voted to join Teamsters Local 553 in December 2018, the company dragged its feet in negotiating a fair contract for three years. Feeling like they were left with no choice, the workers decided to take collective action. “It was a last resort,” Soleyn said. Tuesday, April 18, marks the two-year anniversary of the strike. Yet, Soleyn and the rest of t

Immigrant Workers File National Complaints Against Employer's Intimidation Tactics

About 40 immigrant indigenous workers at the non-union, Brooklyn-based demolition company Best Super Cleaning, have begun their monthly picket lines outside the company’s worksites again, this time demanding an end to the retaliation and intimidation from their employer. Last month the workers filed two charges with the National Labor Relations Board, one on March 13 and the other on March 27, charging the company with surveilling its workers’ organizing activity and threatening workers who cho

Nursing Home 'Hell' is Hotbed of Drug Smuggling, Violence, Neglect and Theft

Tomika Lee was sitting at her security guard post in the lobby of the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center, when a nurse alerted her that two elderly men were fighting. “It was getting really heated,” she said. One of the men was taking his wheelchair apart, piece by piece, and throwing it at the other resident. They were fighting over cigarettes, Lee, who was 23-years-old at the time, learned. The facility’s rules dictate that security guards can’t physically restrain residents, they hav

Despite Reforms, Sex Workers in New York Still Live in Fear of Arrest

Editor’s note: While Documented uses sex workers to refer to individuals and sex work as a trade, prostitution is still used as a legal term in New York, so we use it in that context exclusively. Several times a night, police officers patrol Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, on foot, shining their glaring flashlights at women standing outside the entrances of massage parlors. The women are sex workers, trying to draw customers into massage parlors. As the officers pass, the women flee into t

New OSHA Rules Empower Immigrant Workers

Undocumented workers across the country who have been afraid to speak up about labor rights violations due to their immigration status now have new leverage to take action against their bosses. On Feb. 13, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced for the first time that the agency will have the authority to issue visa certifications to workers who have had their wages stolen, safety laws violated, as well as other workplace abuses, regardless of their immigration

Troubled ASA College Closed But Left Students Out In the Cold

Like many of his fellow international students, Edwin Rodriguez, 30, came to New York from Colombia to attend college with nothing but ambitious dreams for his future. But after nearly two and a half years studying at the long-troubled for-profit ASA College, which abruptly shut its doors last week, he says he’s been left with thousands of dollars in debt, no degree, and ASA holding his student transcripts ransom. “I feel I lost two years of my life,” said Rodriguez, who enrolled with ASA Colle

Uber and Lyft Drivers Fight Back Against Accounts Being Randomly Deactivated

Karim was spending time in Vermont during the July Fourth weekend of 2021 when he received an email from Uber. His account as an Uber driver was being permanently deactivated for violating the company’s community guidelines, the email said, but it did not give him any specific reason. “Overnight I come back from vacation broke and next thing I’m deactivated,” he said. Karim, who is an immigrant from Bangladesh, had been driving since 2017 when his account was cancelled. “It was like a slap in t

LaGuardia Airport Workers Claim Anti-Union Retaliation

LaGuardia Airport’s $8 billion facelift may be nearing completion, but workers there say their labor issues have only worsened. On Thursday afternoon, dozens of LaGuardia Airport workers employed by the major airline contractor Swissport USA, many of whom are immigrants, rallied outside the airport’s Marine Air Terminal to announce filing unfair practice labor charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In addition to the NLRB charges for retaliation against union activists, 32BJ S

City Council Member Funnels Taxpayer Dollars to Anti-Abortion Clinic

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s controversial decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last June, City Council member Vickie Paladino has not only stood out in her anti-choice stance but in her continued financial support for anti-abortion groups. Paladino, who represents Queens and was endorsed by the anti-abortion group Personhood NY when she ran for the New York State Senate in 2018, awarded $10,000 in discretionary funds to Bridge to Life, a Queens-based anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center, fo

Mayor Eric Adams Budget Cuts Put Wage Theft Recovery Program In Jeopardy

Over the past five years, the mayor-funded Low-Wage Worker Support Initiative has allocated about $2 million annually to nonprofits to provide critical legal help for low-wage, immigrant workers in wage theft cases. Last year alone the initiative recovered more than $3 million in stolen wages for immigrant workers. However, that program will soon be on the chopping block as it was left out of Mayor Eric Adams’ proposed $102.7 billion budget. If cut, immigrant workers victimized by wage theft fe

Layoffs at Twitter May Violate City Law, Janitor Union Says

Lucy Calderon, 36, had to cancel Christmas dinner this past year because of sudden layoffs at the Twitter Manhattan office just a week before the holidays. Without her $31-an-hour cleaning job, she couldn’t afford to splurge on her annual family feast. Instead, she spent Christmas sleeping in bed. “It was horrible because my whole family comes to my house,” she said as she struggled to hold back swelling tears. “I’m the one that cooks. I’m my mother’s legacy. I was so depressed and I was going
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