On the morning of May 2nd, one day after celebrating International Workers Day, 38 demolition-construction workers employed by Best Super Cleaning marched into their boss’s office to demand respect and better working conditions, launching the Cabricanecos Campaign for workplace safety. Dozens of Rabbis and Jewish New Yorkers showed up in solidarity to march with them.

New York State, and the country, is emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic, which devastated many of our communities, including immigrants and communities of color. The pandemic brought to light the precarious working conditions workers face every day in the workplace. These 38 employees and many more continued working during the pandemic, not just facing the insidious threat of the virus but also being exposed to harmful chemical materials in the workplace, creating health problems for them. The lack of access to health care and the refusal of the employer to allow the workers to take paid sick leave have contributed to an increase in accidents in the workplace.

According to the employees, “the employers have not provided the necessary protective equipment to perform their work, causing the employees to be exposed to chemicals harmful to their health”. Employees also allege other violations of federal and state labor law, including but not limited to wage theft.

The employees attempted to approach their employers to address their concerns but the employers failed to make substantial changes to the workplace practices, and are refusing to follow the basic labor laws in New York.

As Wilson Diaz, a leader of the campaign, said: "we risk our lives for a salary that is too low. The employer pressures us to do the work fast. We do not have the right team to do the job. Our campaign is for respect, dignity, safety, and health. This organizational process has helped me as an immigrant; we often do not know our rights, and the Laundry Workers Center has been a great support. They have been with us at all times."

Every worker deserves to have a job where basic rights are respected, such as the right to safety and the right to be paid according to federal and state law. The Cabricanecos Campaign aims to ensure that these laws in their workplace are followed and ensure the campaign members' health and safety. The campaign is supported by a coalition of labor, community, and faith leaders, including the Laundry Workers Center, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, and T'ruah.

As Jews, we take our Jewish texts seriously. We are reminded of this warning:

You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow Israelite or a stranger in one of the communities of your land. You must pay out the wages due on the same day, before the sun sets, for the worker is needy and urgently depends on it; else a cry to הי will be issued against you and you will incur guilt. [Devarim 24:14-15]

New York Jews will continue to show our solidarity and commitment to the labor movement.