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New York: New social distancing fines attack workers, not coronavirus

By Jake Holtzman |
April 11, 2020
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

New York, NY - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week that he has increased the maximum fines for not adhering to social distancing orders. Previously $500, the maximum fines suddenly jumped to $1000. The NYPD has also started arresting people for not social distancing, which New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio claims “is about educating people, helping them understanding the new reality.”

While it is of course important that those who are able to work from home keep others safe through social distancing, the increase in fines will primarily affect essential workers, many of whom are still forced to wait at crowded bus stations to get to work each day. Many essential workers are also forced to go to work even if they get sick, in order to make rent on time or avoid getting fired. Furthermore, the steep fines would be a serious financial burden for workers, many of whom are living paycheck to paycheck, not making enough money to afford such fines.

Once again, we see New York officials proposing ‘solutions’ that attack the working class rather than addressing the actual problem. If Cuomo and de Blasio wanted people to better adhere to social distancing, they could order all businesses to provide paid sick leave for workers, and they could suspend rent payments until New Yorkers can go back to work. But because both of these solutions would mean slightly less money in the pockets of CEOs and landlords, Cuomo and de Blasio have failed to act on these fronts. Their lack of action shows us yet another example of the failures of capitalism, which will always find ways to protect the interests of the rich at the expense of the health and safety of workers.

Local organizers in New York City continue to run campaigns for paid sick leave and rent suspension among other demands. Real solutions to the threats of COVID-19 would protect the health and safety of workers, not attack them with fines.