January 6, 2010
Community groups, labor, shoppers and local elected officials released a report on Dec. 20 at the Queens Center Mall that exposes the Macerich Company-owned mall as a publicly subsidized poverty wage center.
The report reveals that, despite the Macerich Company receiving $48 million in tax breaks over the past five years with another $50 million more to come, most of the 3,100 jobs at the Mall pay at or slightly more than the $7.25 federal minimum wage and do not include health benefits. As a result, the Mall has helped create an entire community that is struggling under the weight of poverty-wage jobs, the report concludes.
Daniel Drumm, City Council member-elect from Queens District 25 where the Mall is located, said, "I believe that any recipient of tax subsidies must be held to the highest standard. They must pay livable wages and they must be responsive to the needs of the surrounding community." Today's action marked the start of a campaign to require Mall retailers to pay a living wage with benefits, respect their employees' right to organize a union without threat or intimidation, and secure community space to provide much needed community services, such as job training, youth services, English as a Second Language classes, financial counseling and more. "Living wages for workers at the Queens Center Mall will mean that families don't have to choose between paying the rent and groceries, and that that children won't be left home alone while parents are working two or three jobs to keep food on the table," Omar Noboa, Member of Make the Road New York, and long-time Queens resident said. "Jobs with benefits will mean less working families that will have to rely on public programs such as Medicaid."
The Queens Center Mall campaign builds on the momentum from a recent 45-1 vote by the New York City Council to reject the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx, in part, because the developer there refused to sign a Community Benefits Agreement that included a living wage and protections of the right of workers to join a union without fear or intimidation by their employer.
"Today we are opening a second front in the battle for living wages in New York City," said Jeff Eichler, organizer for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers Union (RWDSU). "We began in the Bronx and today we're in Queens, where the mall owner is receiving tens of millions of dollars in public money. We believe it's only fair that they give something back to the community for these subsidies by providing living wage jobs, the right to organize and community benefits."
"It makes me angry that the Mall makes so much money off of the community, but doesn't give anything back," said Rabia Sajid, from South Asian Youth Action (SAYA). "The mall could be so much more to the community. It could be a means for young adults to support themselves through college. It could be a place where young people learn the value of hard work, and job skills to advance in the future. The Mall should make the stores there pay people more, at least 10 dollars an hour and provide health insurance. It should also partner with community groups to provide good job training programs for young people."
Jose Peralta, NY State Assembly member, Assembly District 39, and Julissa Ferreras, City Council member District 21, also participated in today's event.
The Queens Center Mall Campaign has been endorsed by many components of the Queens community and labor, including: Make the Road New York the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, 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. KCS Korean Community Services of Metropolitan NY, Maura Clarke-Ita Ford Center (MCIF), Mothers on the Move, NEDAP Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, NICE New Immigrant Community Empowerment, Queens Community House, Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, SAYA South Asian Youth Action, Urban Justice Center, Working Families Party, YKASEC Empowering The Korean American Community.