New York City Council and Mayor de Blasio Must Protect Vendors; the NYPD Must Bring the Perpetrator of the Hate Crime to Justice
WHAT: Street Vendors and Allies Hold a Press Conference for Justice for Hassan Elbaz
WHO: The Street Vendor Project (project of Urban Justice Center), Council on
American-Islamic Relations and allies
WHEN: Thursday, July 19th at 11 AM
WHERE: Outside of 636 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
BACKGROUND: On July 12th, 2018, Hassane Elbaz, a Egyptian food vendor working at a coffee cart in lower Manhattan was attacked by an Islamophobic stranger. The assailant snuck up behind Elbaz’s cart, attacked and injured both Elbaz and his colleague, leaving them with black eyes and bruises. The attacker shouted “I’m going to f–k you up, terrorist m———-r! Arab, go back to your country!” The suspect, seen by witnesses, fled before the NYPD arrived. According to media reports, the NYPD has not yet classified the assault as a hate crime.
Today, vendors from across the city and their advocates called upon the city to investigate this incident, classify it as a hate crime, find the attacker, and take further steps to protect Elbaz and other vendors. “This is not the first anti-Muslim attack we have seen on our city’s street vendors,” said Sean Basinski, co-director of the Street Vendor Project.
“We need the city to protect our vendors,” said Cesar Boc, organizer at the Street Vendor Project. Muslim vendors in Lower Manhattan have recently been on the defensive against a plan to remove 22 vendors from the area. Many have blamed the atmosphere, not just at City Hall but also in Washington D.C. “This current political climate has only empowered racists and Islamophobias around the nation, and we are now seeing it here,” said Boc.
After months of gaining critical organizing skills, building deep solidarities, and growing their personal leadership, the Delfino Leadership Institute (DLI) graduated it’s 3rd cohort of worker leaders!
This year’s cohort included members from the following organizations: Desis’s Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), New York Communities for Change (NYCC), The Street Vendor Project (SVP), Adhikaar, Restaurant Opportunity Center-NY (ROC-NY) and Domestic Workers United.
In keeping with tradition, our final training took place May 19-20 in Long Island, NY where the cohort spent the weekend sharing their personal stories, performing theatre of the oppressed skits, learning about each other’s cultures through music and dance, enjoying delicious home-cooked meals– all while building a truly beautiful and long lasting community.
This year’s graduates have grown by leaps and bounds since they first embarked on their collective leadership journey in February. Meeting on a monthly basis, the cohort engaged in trainings covering organizing essentials like base-building, recruitment, action planning, and more. Upon completing the program, participants walked away with solidified outreach skills which they can use to advance their organizations’ capacity through base-building. They learned the Enlace outreach RAP framework as well as how to respond to push-back when outreaching. They also gained skills in how to conduct 1-on-1 meetings, how to grow the leadership of other members in their organization, and how to effectively plan an action.
Underlying the Delfino Leadership Institute is the importance of movement building. Since it’s initial formation, DLI has worked towards the goal of creating a space where solidarity can flourish across communities. This year’s cohort was emblematic of those founding principles as we saw how powerful connections are able to transcend language, nationality, sector, and gender. Both within the training space and through taking collective action together, the bonds formed within DLI will be long-lasting. And while DLI may have officially ended for the year, cohort members are committed to staying connected and taking action together.
APRIL 25th | City Hall Action Day | 11am – 3pm
Join us at 11am at 250 Broadway as our members meet with their Council Members. And then at 2pm, we are calling on all drivers and allies for a rally on the Steps of City Hall as the Council holds its stated meeting. Please email us if you would like to individually or organizationally endorse our campaign and make City Hall heed our urgent call for action. Over the past four months, four professional drivers in New York City have committed suicide because of financial devastation. Wall Street greed has created an economic crisis worse than drivers have ever seen before. And it’s hurting workers across the industry. The four drivers who took their lives, Danilo Corporan Castillo and Alfredo Alvarez, livery drivers in the Bronx, Doug Schifter, a black car driver, and Nicanor Ochisor, a yellow cab owner-driver, all despaired after sinking into poverty. The erosion of full-time income with no end in sight to the impoverishment has been crushing to drivers across the industry. Drivers in non-App sectors are sinking deeper into poverty. Drivers who work directly for Uber are earning poverty pay. No driver is wining this race to the bottom.
Our members refuse to give up.
And because of our activism the political inaction which has led to Wall Street’s free hand over workers is beginning to shift. The Mayor, the Governor, and the Council Speaker all now agree that it’s time to look into capping the flood of for-hire-vehicles drowning our streets. Capping vehicles is an important first step. But it’s not enough to solve the crisis drivers are facing. We need to set a minimum fare rate in order to establish a wage floor in the industry – so no company can lower rates on drivers’ backs. We need to raise those rates so drivers have a chance at recovery after five years of straight loss. And we need to establish labor standards – such as caps on driver expenses to end predatory lending – in this new market which has been unregulated for five years and is setting all drivers off on a race to the bottom.
As our members demonstrate and rally, we need you, our allies, to amplify our call for justice and demand urgent action! CONGESTION PRICING While drivers were protesting and mourning our brothers, Albany, instead of heeding our call to reign in Wall-Street greed, passed a congestion pricing surcharge on drivers’ backs. The surcharge will add $2.50 to Yellow Cab rides and $2.75 to for-hire-vehicle rides below 96th street in Manhattan. Drivers are already facing unprecedented financial hardship — and this surcharge will add an unnecessary strain on their incomes.
Read NYTWA member Lal Singh’s moving OpEd in the New York Daily News about how congestion pricing will hurt a workforce in crisis. This attack on our incomes comes at a time when streets are packed with so many vehicles than none of us can earn a living anymore. Congestion is a problem because the city refuses to regulate corporate bullies like Uber and Lyft and cap the number of vehicles they can dump onto our streets. The real solution – the one that will require politicians to stand up to these Wall-Street-backed corporations – is to put a cap on the number of vehicles on city streets, not keep taking more money out of drivers’ pockets.