En EspaƱol Know Your Rights
Source: New York Daily News
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Protesters Converge on Queens Center Mall to Fight Lack of Living Wage Requirement

On the heels of a City Council
decision to nix the Kingsbridge Armory mall project over the lack of a living
wage requirement, advocates and elected officials are raising similar concerns
about the Queens Center Mall.

Protesters converged on the Elmhurst shopping center
on Sunday, calling it a "poverty wage center," even though it
received $48 million in tax abatements.

"When a developer or mall owner
seeks public money, they have to give back to the community and the
workers," said Jeff Eichler of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store
Union.

The 50 or so protesters – including
elected officials and representatives of the advocacy group
Make the Road New York – called on the mall’s parent company, Macerich, to require
increased wages and benefits from its tenants, to allow union organization and
to provide more of its space to community functions.

The Council voted down the
Kingsbridge Armory mall project when the developer, Related Companies, wouldn’t
agree to require a living wage minimum of $10 an hour with benefits or $11.50
without. Other malls in New York
do not yet have such requirements, Eichler said, but many municipalities will
not offer tax breaks without them.

Many of the 3,100 retailers at the
Queens Center Mall paid just above the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, according
to a survey by advocates.

Queens Center Mall boasts the
highest revenue per square foot of any mall in the U.S. That, and $48 million in tax
abatements granted between 2004 and 2009, should require action, protesters
said.

"If you go into the mall and you take something for nothing, you’re
likely to get into a lot of trouble,"
said Andrew Friedman, co-executive director of Make the Road. "But the Queens Center
Mall itself is taking $48 million in public subsidies and they’ve given almost
nothing in return."

A Macerich spokeswoman said company
policy did not allow for comment on its requirements for tenants."We do not discuss our leases and cannot
comment on behalf of our retailers," Dawn Simon, a senior marketing
manager, wrote in an e-mail.

Protesters also said the mall had
not provided adequate community use, but Simon said a 1,400-square-foot space
has been used by groups such as LaGuardia
Community College
and
Community Board 4.

Councilman-elect Daniel Dromm
(D-Jackson Heights), whose predecessor Helen Sears cast the lone vote for the
Kingsbridge Armory project, said he would continue to push Macerich and other
local developers on behalf of workers.

"This mall has been a Scrooge
to our community," he said. "But if you know what happened in the
story "The Christmas Carol," Scrooge was visited by three ghosts. And
although we are not ghosts, we are going to visit this mall time and time again
until we enforce on this mall the same type of transformation that Scrooge had."