September 21, 2020 |
If we have learned anything this year, it is that we can no longer afford to conduct politics as usual. The coronavirus pandemic has only exposed and exacerbated the systemic injustice and growing inequality leaving our communities behind.
As the wealthy fled to their vacation homes, our essential workers — overwhelmingly people of color — have continued to put their lives on the line every day to save lives and keep the city running.
Black and Hispanic individuals are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than whites, partly due to disparities in health care, including low access to preventative care. Some 1.2 million immigrant New Yorkers have been excluded from unemployment relief and are struggling to survive.
Our communities are also the most vulnerable in the looming mass evictions crisis. We are at greater risk of poverty and police brutality, which continue to afflict our neighborhoods at alarming rates. We are effectively battling three pandemics at once.
To meet this moment, community and labor organizations are coming together to elect candidates of color with deep ties to their communities and revitalize local politics in a city that has become increasingly inhospitable to working-class people of color.
All too many elected officials have stood idly by as billionaires and corporations have generated obscene profits, while our communities suffer. Black, Brown, immigrant and low-income communities face ongoing disinvestment, with dwindling worker protections, small businesses in decline, predatory landlords and toxic public housing living conditions. It is high time we elect local leadership that reflects and prioritizes the needs of our communities.
In 2021, we have the opportunity to radically transform the city’s political landscape and level the playing field for ordinary New Yorkers. The entire City Council — the lawmaking body responsible for approving the budget, making land use and districting decisions, and monitoring the performance of city agencies — is up for election, with 35 seats that will not have an incumbent in the race.
Four out of five borough presidents are term-limited out of office, as are the city controller and the mayor. New Yorkers will also choose the district attorneys for Manhattan and Brooklyn. With an anticipated 500 candidates running for office, we look forward to seeing a real shift in power and systems in the city we call home.
That’s why we are launching Road to Justice NYC, bringing together tens of thousands of members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Community Voices Heard Power and Make the Road Action to fight for equitable political representation in New York City. Our organizations work across the five boroughs and have a long history of winning campaigns for justice for people of color. Together, we’re ready to seize the opportunity presented by the 2021 elections to identify and back transformative leaders who are deeply committed to racial, social, and economic justice.
Road to Justice NYC aims to build a bench of electable leaders from underrepresented communities, particularly women of color. We support bold candidates with a proven track record of service, demonstrated leadership within their communities and policies that will advance equitable outcomes for New Yorkers of color. We will endorse and actively support those who share our members' values and vision for the future of our communities. Our members' decision-making power will drive the candidate screening, endorsement and get-out-the-vote processes.
From the movement to defund the police to the fight for safe and affordable housing to the urgent pleas for educational justice, we are witnessing the tremendous power of grassroots organizing.
Our communities are demanding a seat at the table and accountability from our government. They want leaders who will listen to their concerns and help create plans to work together to improve conditions in communities citywide.
We cannot bring about meaningful change without centering the voices of poor, working-class and marginalized New Yorkers. It is time for our city to usher in a new wave of leaders who will advocate for and with the people.
Seay is the political director of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. Atta-Mensah is the executive director of Community Voices Heard Power. Valdés is the co-executive director of Make the Road Action.