People, Partnership, & Possibility: Maya Wiley Made History

July 19, 2021

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Healthcare workers were the cornerstone of her run for NYC Mayor.

As this magazine went to press, 1199ers were once again in the midst of making history: We were pushing to the finish line Maya Wiley’s bid to become New York City’s next mayor. With New York City’s June 22 Mayoral Primary fast approaching, 1199’s formidable political operation was in full swing—masked, vaccinated, and working hard to elect Wiley and a host of other endorsed candidates for offices that include New York City Council, Borough President, and District Attorney.

As they had for numerous prior elections, 1199ers were canvassing, phone banking, and caravanning. And in the lead up to the June Mayoral Primary, they were connecting with voters about Maya Wiley: Why Maya is the person most capable to lead a post-COVID New York City and address some of the metropolis’ most intractable problems.

“After everything that happened last year during the pandemic, we need all the help we can get from our elected officials,” said Yvette Vasquez, an Occupational Therapy Aide at Manhattan’s New Jewish Home.

“In my job, I see firsthand what happens when you don’t have enough homecare workers. Patients get stuck in a nursing home when they could [have been comfortable and safe in their family] home. I know we can count on Maya Wiley to make sure everyone gets the care they need.” In the early spring, 1199ers’ kicked off their tried and true GOTV neighborhood and worksite events with a series of boroughwide Zoom meetings. These virtual gatherings held in April and May focused on the importance of local elections and drew hundreds of members to each call. 1199ers were able to connect personally with Maya and discuss with her the issues most critical to them and their communities.

Environmental Service Worker Veronica Sanchez joined the Staten Island Boroughwide Meeting and asked Wiley about her plans to address the city’s dual crises of homelessness and opioid addiction, particularly on Staten Island.

Sanchez, who works at Staten Island University Hospital's methadone clinic, noted that both had become visibly more serious on the Island.

In response, Wiley emphasized her broad-spectrum plan to address New York City’s crisis around affordable housing and homelessness with rent subsidies and protections and to preserve affordable rentals; community planning; protections for long-term homeowners, and more.

Wiley also has far-reaching plans to address drug addiction, mental health, and unemployment.

“I like the way she thinks.

She’s realistic,” said Sanchez, an 1199 delegate and member political organizer. “She’s also a woman of color, and I admire what she’s accomplished and had to overcome to get where she is. She was strong enough to break barriers and that speaks to what she will bring to the job of mayor.”

To that end, Wiley herself hit the campaign trail where 1199ers have laid the groundwork. She logged a lot of hours in “purple brigade territory,” talking to voters and spending time in the neighborhoods where New York City’s working people make their lives. On a breezy May afternoon, Wiley spent several hours canvassing in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, an area that is home to a significant number of 1199 members, many of whom live in NYCHA housing. NYCHA is an issue central to tens of thousands of New Yorkers and Wiley’s campaign.

Focused and relaxed, Wiley’s demeanor was more like an old friend than a politician pounding the pavement for votes. She was open, engaging, and genuinely eager to hear what was on people’s minds—even when they were visibly shocked to find her at their open door.

If she is elected, Wiley will be the first Black woman to win New York City’s mayoralty. But it will be the second time that 1199’s formidable political operation and member strength helped a come-from-behind Black candidate for New York City Mayor. 1199ers played a seminal role in David Dinkins historic 1989 election.

Dinkins’ candidacy was seen as at best precarious, until 1199 and the ranks of labor rallied around him. Wiley has drawn comparisons, and as far as 1199ers are concerned, she will end her campaign with the same victory— propelled by the gorgeous mosaic of the working class as a candidate able to inspire working people, young activists, and marginalized voters.

“I love the fact that she connects with the average person. That’s something that all of us need to see to empower ourselves in our daily lives,” said Jenny Weeks, a paralegal at the Legal Aid Society. “I’m starting law school in August, and Maya is showing me the way. It’s exciting to support someone with whom I can identify—who looks like me, and who really knows the issues that face the working people of New York.”

Editor’s Note: This issue of 1199 Magazine went to press before the June 22 Mayoral Primary. We will report the full results of the NYC primary in the July/August edition.

1199 Magazine - May / June 2021