David M. Quintana
On Saturday May 21, 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.
Among those participating in the event were elected officials: state Sen. Jose Peralta, Assembly members Francisco Moya and Jeffrion Aubrey, and City Council Members Julissa Ferreras and Daniel Dromm. The meeting was hosted by Make the Road New York, Queens Congregations United for Action, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and the Retail Action Project.
In exchange for the more than $100 million in tax breaks Macerich receives, a growing coalition is pushing to hold the 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.
It is past time for retail workers to receive a living wage and be able to unionize without being threatened by their employers. 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.
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.
A living wage bill in the City Council 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.
Contact your City Council member and tell them to pass it. It is a moral imperative that if someone works full-time they should be able to support their family and feed their children. Thank you.
David M. Quintana