En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Queens Ledger
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Wage Overhaul at Queens Center Mall

 

Protesters
with the Queens Center Mall Campaign picketed the mall’s management office at 90-51 92nd Street
on Monday to demand living wages for employees and community space. According
to the Queens Center Mall Campaign’s December report, the Macerich Company,
which owns Queens
Center
, receives over
$100 million in tax breaks, but most of the 3,100 employees at Queens Center
Mall earn an average of just $7.25 per hour with no health benefits.


“When tax dollars are used to
subsidize private development, the public has the right to demand that the jobs
created pay a living wage,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail,
Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), a co-convener of the Queens
Center Mall Campaign. “The community has the right to demand that it benefits
from the taxpayers’ investment."


The
groups also requested that Queens
Center
, a popular hangout
for local teens, consider implementing affordable community space for use by
community groups providing services like job training, financial counseling,
and ESL classes.


“The
most profitable mall in New York City
should pay a livable wage to its hard-working employees,” said Councilman
Daniel Dromm.“This shopping mall received public funds to finance its
expansion. Now it must respect the community and its workers by being more
responsive and paying higher wages.”


Among
the protesters were several part-time JCPenney employees who were laid off last
month without warning. Marvin Hernandez’s starting salary was $8 an hour before
taxes; his ending salary, $8.35, after three years with the store. JCPenney
gave him a severance package, but Hernandez worries that he won’t find a new
job before those funds run dry.


“It’s bad enough for us to look for
a job because there are hardly any jobs willing to pay more than the minimum.
I’m looking for a comfortable place to work that has affordable benefits and
will allow me to support my family,” said Hernandez, who takes care of his
mother and three brothers.


Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of Make
The Road New York
,
said the groups were successful in securing a meeting with the property manager
for March 19.


“We came here with
a clear purpose, and that was to hand deliver a letter and demand a meeting, so
we accomplished that,”
said Archila.
“But the ultimate goal is to make sure that Macerich makes a commitment to make
a standard to demand that everyone that leases in the mall pays a living wage
with benefits.”


Queens
Center Mall spokeswoman Dawn Simon said, “The majority of individuals who work
at Queens Center are employed by individual
companies, not by Macerich. Macerich adheres to both state and federal
regulations and we expect our retailers to do the same. We can’t comment on
behalf of our retailers.”


She
added that community groups already use the Discover Queens common area in the
mall and that there is an additional room adjacent to the management center
that community groups are welcome to use.