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A Reflection on Community Values for Queens Center Mall
North Star Fund
Rev. Lancelot Waldron

May 20, 2011
View the Original Article

As people of faith, we at Queens Congregations United for Action (QCUA) strongly believe that every human being is created in God's image and deserves respect. However, all too often, many of our families are not receiving the respect they are due.  The gap between the rich and the poor continues to increase nationwide and is largest right here  in NYC.  The top 1% of New York City earn nearly half of the income!  Yet on average, wages and income remain stagnant and many workers are forced to endure harsh working conditions and fear losing their jobs if they speak out.  I am the president of Queens Congregations United for Action, a faith-based organization in Queens.  For many of the families in our member congregations, these are not just statistics, but rather a reality.  Every day, many work long hours for little pay, often denied overtime or even minimum wage.

Yet large banks and corporations continue to operate as they did before the economic collapse, with little or no oversight, particularly as it relates to wages and working conditions. The Macerich Corporation is just one example of such a company.  Macerich owns 95 malls throughout the country, including the Queens Center Mall here in Elmhurst.  This mall is one of  the most profitable malls in the country, has already received $48 million in tax subsidies, and is due to receive many millions more before 2019.  Yet the majority of the 3000 workers at the mall earn at or barely above minimum wage and can't count on getting to 40 hours a week.  In light of these facts, it is unconscionable that Macerich can allow poverty wages to continue at the Queens Center Mall.

We believe that the Macerich Company has an opportunity to take the lead and become a model mall owner.  We are co-hosting a town hall meeting about the Queens Center Mall on Saturday, May 21, 3pm at St. Paul the Apostle Church (98-16 55th Ave) to call on  the Mall to reflect these values by:
  1. Requiring Living Wage Jobs With Benefits: $10 per hour with benefits or $11.50 without benefits.
  2. Respecting Workers' Right to Organize a Union without intimidation or fear of reprisals from their employers.
  3. Providing Services for the Surrounding Community, such as ESL classes, youth activities, job training and job placement services.
By taking action for better conditions at the Queens Center Mall, we hope to bring relief to the families that work at and frequent the mall and also take a step towards justice for all workers in NYC. Together we are bringing hope to working families.

Learn more at www.qcua.org

Rev. Lancelot Waldron is the board president of Queens Congregations United for Action.  QCUA is a faith-based community organization representing nine congregations and schools and thousands of families in Queens.  QCUA is a North Star Fund grantee since 2007. This event is co-sponsored by QCUA; Make the Road New York; and the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union