New York City’s Frontline Workers

Frontline workers have always been the lifeblood of our city. Nurses, janitors, grocery clerks, childcare staff, bus and truck drivers. Every single day, crisis or no crisis, these are the essential workers in our city, our economy, and our society. The COVID-19 crisis does little to change that reality, it only brings into sharper relief these vital New Yorkers, who number more than one million workers amid today’s crisis, or 25 percent of the city’s workforce. And yet, these same workers whom we trust with our health, our nourishment, our loved ones, and our lives are too often ignored, underpaid, and overworked. They very often lack healthcare, have to travel long distances to get to get to work, and struggle with childcare. Many in New York City are also undocumented, meaning they do all of the above while living in fear of deportation under the current federal administration.If there is any collateral benefit to the COVID-19 tragedy, it is that the labor and contribution of those in our social service, cleaning, delivery and warehouse, grocery, healthcare, and public transit industries have finally received the attention and respect that they are due. How well we protect, compensate, and care for these workers, then, will be the ultimate litmus test for what we’ve learned from this global pandemic. This report, by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, provides a detailed, demographic profile of these non-governmental workers—and the public employees who get them to work—so that the City, State, and Feds can better address their needs and citizens can better appreciate the struggles confronted by those who toil every day on the frontlines of this pandemic—who they are, where they live, where they’re from, how they get to work, their childcare and healthcare needs, and their financial stresses. To that end, the following serves as both a profile and a guide.

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