Macerich needs to live up to its responsibilities to the community and its workers by implementing standards for pay, benefits, and working conditions at its tenant stores. A survey conducted at various stores in the Queens Center Mall found that there are few full-time jobs and most jobs paid at or slightly above the $7.25 minimum wage. The average starting wage at the 25 stores studied was $7.72 per hour. Workers say their pay is not enough to live on in Elmhurst, Queens.
Beyond the Queens Center Mall
Workers at the Queens Center Mall are not alone. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute’s recent report, “Low Wages, No Bargain: Retail Jobs in New York City,” 44% of retail workers in New York City earn less than $10 per hour, and approximately 25% of retail workers earn less than $8 per hour. Despite common stereotypes, retail workers are not just teenagers working part time for pocket money either. The vast majority—78% to be exact—are 25 years or older, and half are 35 years or older. In many cases, they are providing for their whole families. Click here to read the full report.
Beyond New York City
There is a movement to pass living wage ordinances in cities throughout the U.S. According to the American Prospect, the movement began in the early 1990s in Baltimore, where a community-labor coalition called BUILD mobilized a successful grass-roots campaign to pass the nation's first "living wage" law in 1994, requiring companies with municipal contracts and subsidies to pay employees decently. Since then, more than 100 cities have followed suit. The living-wage movement's success has led to other local government tools to induce private companies to create middle-class jobs and upgrade low-wage work.
Paying living wages, such as a $10 hourly wage with benefits or $11.50 without benefits that New York City requires for its contracted employees, would at least be a good start towards changing the mall from a poverty wage center to a responsible center of employment in Queens, and a step in the right direction towards achieving a living wage ordinance in New York City.