A RWDSU-backed coalition of unions, community
groups, shoppers, and local elected officials released a report at Queens
Center Mall yesterday, exposing the Macerich Company-owned mall as a publicly
subsidized poverty wage center.
According to the report, released by the RWDSU
and Queens community group Make
the Road, the massive mall has received $48 million in tax breaks
over the past five years with another $50 million more to come. However, 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.
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 RWDSU Organizer Jeff Eichler
(above center, blue coat). "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."
At yesterday’s event, elected officials and
community leaders agreed that whether in the Bronx or Queens, living wages are
the new standard in the fight for good jobs in New York City.
Daniel Dromm (above, black coat), 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."
"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 yesterday’s event.