May 23, 2011
NEW YORK, NY - Hundreds turned out on Saturday for a Town Hall meeting demanding that the owner of the Queens Center Mall give back to the community.
Macerich, the owner of the mall, is receiving over $100 million in tax breaks. The Queens Center Mall Campaign (QCMC), a growing coalition of community, labor, and clergy organizations, 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.
Among those participating in the event were NY State Senator Jose Peralta, NY Assembly Member Francisco Moya, NY Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubrey, and New York City Council Members Julissa Ferreras and Daniel Dromm. The meeting was hosted by Make the Road New York (MRNY), Queens Congregations United for Action (QCUA), the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and the Retail Action Project (RAP).
"I'm very concerned about the low wages and the lack of benefits at the Queens Center Mall," State Senator Peralta said at the Town Hall meeting. "I call upon Macerich to require union neutrality from its retailers, so employees can decide whether or not to organize a union without fear of threats or retaliation."
"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," said NY Assembly member Francisco Moya.
Participants at the Town Hall meeting heard testimony from members of a number of organizations in the campaign.
"Our vision is to offer the hundreds of youth from our community who go to the mall after school every day more options for enrichment. We think the Queens Center Mall should provide community space where programs and services aimed at youth and their families can be offered," said Fr. Darrell Da Costa, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Church, a QCUA member.
"I shop regularly at the Queens Center Mall. The mall has a lot of space and the community has a lot of needs. The owners of the Queens Center Mall should make space available for things like English classes and job training," said MRNY member Isabel Encalada.
"I worked at a store in the Queens Center Mall both before and after there was a union, and I can tell you it makes a huge difference. We went from making below minimum wage to having a union contract with regular raises and paid sick and vacation time. Unfortunately, most of the stores in the mall don't have a union. The workers should have living wages and should have the right to organize without being bullied and intimidated by their employers," said Mamoudou Keita, an RWDSU member who worked at the Yellow Rat Bastard at the mall and who now works at its unionized SoHo location.
Although representatives from the Macerich Company were invited to participate in the Town Hall meeting, they did not.
The Queens Center Mall Campaign has been endorsed by many components of the Queens community and labor, including: Make the Road New York, Queens Congregations United for Action, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), the Retail Action Project (RAP); Adhikaar for Human Rights & Social Justice, Chhaya CDC, Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, UMC Community Voices Heard, Damayan Migrants Workers Association, Drum Desis Rising Up & Moving Up, Good Jobs New York, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jobs with Justice New York, Judson Memorial Church. Korean Community Services of Metropolitan NY (KCS), Maura Clarke-Ita Ford Center (MCIF), Mothers on the Move, Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project (NEDAP), New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), Queens Community House, Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, South Asian Youth Action (Saya), Urban Justice Center, Working Families Party, MinKwon Center.