On Saturday May 21st, I attended a Town Hall meeting at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Corona with hundreds of others to demand that the owner of the highly profitable Queens Center Mall, the Macerich Company, give back to the community by transforming the publicly subsidized mall from a poverty wage center into a responsible development for workers of Queens.
In exchange for the more than $100 million in tax breaks that Macerich receives, a growing community of labor, clergy and others are pushing to hold the Queens Center Mall owner accountable to the public by requiring retailers to pay a living wage with benefits, respect workers' rights to organize a union without threats or intimidation, and provide space for community services.
The owners of the mall receive tens of millions of dollars in subsidies from our tax dollars and what does the community receive in return? Absolutely nothing.
Retail is one of the areas where the largest number of jobs are being created, and it is past time for retail workers to receive a living wage and be able to unionize without being threatened by their employers.
It shouldn’t even be a question for the Queens Center Mall, one of the most profitable malls in the country (profits of $876 per square-foot) to become a living wage center and not a poverty wage one.
Many people who work at the mall barely make the minimum wage. As everyone knows, it’s not possible to live on such a low salary here in Queens, much less support a family.
I feel it's important that when we talk about economic development in our community, we should be talking about jobs that provide economic stability, jobs that can support a family and not part-time jobs with poverty wages and no benefits. Macerich should be made to require union neutrality from its retailers, so employees can decide whether or not to organize a union without fear of threats or retaliation.
A living wage bill is being debated in the council which would require businesses that receive tax breaks or city subsidies to pay their workers a living wage of $11.50 an hour without benefits or $10 an hour with benefits.
I would urge anyone reading this to contact their council member and tell them that they should vote to pass a living wage law in New York City. It is a moral imperative that if someone works full-time they should be able to support their family and feed their children.