Our Model and Approach
Our model integrates multi-issue, multi-generational organizing – on workers’ rights, tenant rights, LGBTQ justice, youth power and policing, public schools and education justice, immigration justice, and climate.
– with an array of wrap around services that create a space of safety and support for entire families. Our storefront community centers are decorated with murals and made visible with colorful awnings; families pour in to sign up for English-as-a-second-language classes, and stay to enroll their kids in our after-school Youth Power program. They come seeking help fighting an illegal eviction, and stay to fight for better laws protecting tenants.
Interviews with our staff and members bring out one recurrent comment: “Make the Road is my second home.” Immigrant parents thousands of miles from their children find support and solidarity here. Transgender women facing violence and discrimination at every turn find safety here. And everyone who comes with an individual story of abuse and exploitation finds that they are not alone – that in collectivizing our experiences and voices we can build the power to change not just one case, but entire systems.
“Caminante, no hay camino. Se hace el camino al andar. Searcher, there is no road. We make the road by walking.”
Our members have achieved victories for millions in New York and increasingly at the national level. These are just a few:
Paid Sick Days for 1.5 million NYC workers
We know that without paid sick days, workers are incredibly vulnerable. For a low-wage worker, taking off even a single day without pay can mean the loss of critical income. For parents, this can mean the impossible choice between caring for a sick child or having enough money to feed that child. It can also mean losing one’s job. Low-wage workers have been fired for having to take a sick day — some were even fired for going to the hospital after getting sick or injured while on the job.
After tireless advocacy by hundreds of MRNY’s individual and small business members and our allies, a law was passed granting sick leave to millions of New Yorkers, making New York City the largest city in the U.S. to enact paid sick days legislation.
Government ID cards made available for all NYC residents
After years of advocacy by MRNY members and our allies, NYC became the largest municipality in the country to offer its own ID program. For our community — undocumented immigrants in particular — having government-issued ID eases participation in fundamental aspects of daily life, from picking up children from school to opening a bank account. The IDNYC program also ensures that thousands of youth and homeless New Yorkers won’t need to fear being detained or arrested for not having ID. And New Yorkers can choose their gender to be listed on their card. Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals no longer have to fear confusion or being shamed when pulling out an ID card that does not accurately represent them. MRNY enrolled over 14,000 people in IDNYC in the program’s first year at our Queens and Brooklyn centers.
Access to healthcare for trans and gender non-conforming New Yorkers
MRNY and our allies successfully advocated to ensure that Medicaid was expanded to include critical medical care for trans and gender non-conforming individuals in New York State. This expansion means that trans and gender non-conforming New Yorkers will have access to gender confirmation surgeries and other care they need to stay healthy.
Expanded human rights law in Suffolk County
Thanks to the advocacy of MRNY and our allies, Suffolk County amended its human rights law to prevent discrimination by employers,creditors and landlords. The law expands protections against employment discrimination based on family status, pregnancy, and for domestic workers, and adds protections for transgender people, veterans, domestic violence victims, pregnant women, and disabled residents. The new law also prohibits discrimination against renters who receive public assistance or other subsidies. With these new protections, communities vulnerable to discrimination — like low-income and immigrant New Yorkers — have the power to stand up to employers, landlords, and creditors who violate their rights.
215 new community schools by 2017
MRNY has been at the forefront of the national movement for community schools, which provide wraparound services for students and their families to ensure their basic needs are met, enabling students to thrive academically. We are implementing this strategy in four Bushwick high schools that together serve 1,200 students. Our culturally competent bilingual staff connect families to our legal services, enroll families in health insurance and food stamps, and connect students to a school-based mental health clinic. We also offer adult education and ESOL programs for parents. As a result of our advocacy, MRNY’s community school is serving as a model for Mayor de Blasio’s plan to create 215 community schools in NYC by 2017.
Oversight of the NYPD and strong protections against discriminatory policing and harsh discipline
MRNY successfully advocated for the Student Safety Act, which now requires the city to release data that shows persistent inequities in school discipline, strengthening our campaign for reform. We elevated the Community Safety Act, which helps to rein in stop-and-frisk practices. MRNY youth member Christine Rodriguez served on the Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline, where she elevated our priorities, such as limiting police in schools. We advocate against harsh discipline in schools, leading the City to announce a ban on suspensions of students in kindergarten through 2nd grade.
Student Success Center creates path to college for thousands of youth
MRNY’s Student Success Center is the city’s first youth-designed college access center. We train college-going youth from the community to guide their peers through the application process and into college. As a result, 85% of students on the campus where our SSC operates are accepted to college. Our success has led the city to replicate our model in 15 more schools.
Translation services at pharmacies throughout New York State
Thanks to Make the Road New York’s landmark civil rights complaint against New York State’s largest pharmacy chains, thousands of pharmacies are now required to provide interpretation and translation services for millions of New Yorkers. Without this critical service, New Yorkers are at risk of taking the wrong dosage of medications or take their medications more or less frequently than prescribed. MRNY has advocated with allies for language access in social services for over a decade, resulting in required translation services in government agencies and hospitals across New York State.
Helped clean up the carwash industry and win millions in back wages for workers
MRNY’s historic work to clean up the exploitative carwash industry with the RWDSU and NYCC has resulted in over $3 million in back wages and penalties in the pockets of workers, an estimated $2.00 per hour raise across the industry, and innovative licensing legislation. Workers at 11 union carwashes have counted on MRNY’s support to ensure that their right to unionize is respected and to help them win ground-breaking contracts.
State executive order on not asking for personal info
After over a decade of organizing by MRNY and allies, Governor Cuomo signed one of the country’s strongest executive orders prohibiting state agencies from gathering and sharing immigration status information with federal immigration authorities. This means that in the vast majority of situations, immigrants across New York State can interact with police and other state agencies with a legal guarantee that they will not be asked their immigration status. State police will be barred from sharing any personal information with ICE for immigration enforcement.
Long Island’s immigrant population has doubled in recent years, and is home to MRNY’s fastest-growing membership.
MRNY’s newest center in Westchester will expand critical services for the area’s growing immigrant community and play a key role in winning victories for our members at the state level.
MRNY supported Poleth, a Staten Island youth, in becoming an outspoken leader for immigrant rights and in fighting for deportation relief for herself and her family. She is a recipient of our 2017 Miguel Angel Jimenez Scholarships, which will allow her to attend college and pursue her dreams.
MRNY and our sister organizations - Make the Road New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania - form a powerful bloc fighting for immigrant communities across the Northeast, and we continually seek ways to grow MRNY’s proven model in communities across the country.