NEW YORK, NY — Hundreds of Queens residents and workers celebrated Fathers Day today with a rally at the Queens Center Mall to highlight the need for living wages, community space and organizing rights at the publicly-subsidized poverty wage center. The community is demanding that the malls owner, the Macerich Company, provide community benefits and require their tenants to pay a living wage and respect their employees right to organize a union without threat or intimidationin exchange for the more than $100 million in tax breaks Macerich receives.
The Queens Center Mall is one of the most profitable malls in the country. Yet, as the Queens Center Mall Coalitions December report revealed, the Macerich Company receives over $100 million in tax breaks but most of the 3,100 jobs at the mall pay at or around the $7.25 federal minimum wage and do not include health benefits. As a result, the study found the mall has helped create an entire community that is struggling under the weight of poverty-wage jobs.
If I work full-time for a store that makes millions of dollars every year, and in a mall that receives millions in tax breaks, then I should be able to support myself and my children! said Jennifer Mercado, former employee at Childrens Place and Yellow Rat Bastard at the mall. Projects like the Queens Center Mall should NOT be given our taxpayer money without giving back to the workers and community.
"I am an honest, hardworking person and deserve to be treated with respect. And that is why I am here today, fighting for dignity, respect and justice for myself and other retail workers in the mall," added Marvin Hernandez, a recently laid-off JC Penney worker.
While Macerich pulls in millions of dollars in profits, retail workers at the mall are struggling to make ends meet for themselves and for their families. These Queens workers are not alone. According to a recent Fiscal Policy Institute report, three in five New York retail workers earn an hourly wage of $13 or less, and 44% earn less than $10 an hour. Contrary to popular misconceptions, these aren’t teenagers: 78% are 25 years of age or older, and more than a third of them are their family’s sole provider.
Even during the current economic downturn, while other malls and retail stores have lost some revenue, the Queens Center Mall has continued to pull in massive profits. How has Macerich stayed so profitable? Because we allowed them to expand their mall here in Elmhurst and gave them tens of millions of dollars in tax subsidies to do it, said Ana Maria Archila, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, a co-convener of the Queens Center Mall Campaign. Today, we are demanding that mall management begin working with us to make the mall a good corporate citizen in our community.
Retail will be one or the areas of our economy that will produce the largest number of jobs over the next ten years, said Jeff Eichler, Director of the RWDSUs Retail Organizing Project. If we want a prosperous city, these jobs need to be living wage jobs.
Todays action was part of the growing Living Wage NYC campaign to require New York City businesses that receive public subsidies, to pay a living wage with benefits.
The press conference and action took place on Fathers Day to tell Macerich that fathers, and all working families, deserve a living wage. Little League baseball players joined community members to pass out Fathers Day cards reading, We value the job you do at the Queens Center Mall. Every father deserves dignity and a living wage. Happy Fathers Day from the Queens Center Mall Campaign.
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 (RWDSU), 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.
The Queens Center Mall Campaign is a project of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and Make the Road New York. For more information, visit: www.queenscentermall.org.