Protesting for jobs in Queens
NEW YORK--Community, religious and labor organizations gathered in front of the Queens Center Mall (QCM) on June 21 to protest the mall's failure to produce community benefits or decent jobs, despite receiving over $100 million in tax breaks.
QCM is one of the most profitable malls in the country. Most retail jobs pay at or slightly above the federal minimum wage of $7.25, with few, if any, benefits. "I don't know how these corporate owners sleep at night knowing their workers can hardly survive on the wages they pay, when they get millions in tax breaks," said Rodney, an 18-year retail veteran and organizer with the Retail Action Project.
Every year, New York state gives away $8 billion in tax breaks to private businesses in the name of job creation and economic development. However, projects like the Queens Mall offer nothing to the community but poverty-wage jobs.
Last year, New York development agencies gave away $135 million in job creation tax breaks to development projects that failed to create any new jobs, and in some cases even cut jobs.
The rally was one of five held statewide at wasteful development projects like the QCM. These actions were organized by the Alliance for Greater New York to highlight their new report, which calls on lawmakers to use economic development to promote good jobs, a sustainable environment and community benefits, and to hold corporations that receive subsidies and tax breaks accountable.
The rally was also part of an ongoing local campaign, organized by Make the Road NY, Queens Congregations United for Action, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and the Retail Action Project, to demand that QCM owner Macerich require retailers to pay their workers a living wage with benefits, allow workers to organize without fear of retaliation, and provide space for community services.
These groups, along with state and local politicians, held a town hall meeting to launch this campaign on May 21 that drew hundreds.
As RWDSU member Mamoudou Keita, who worked at one of the few unionize work places at the QCM, told the town hall meeting:
I worked at a store in the Queens Center Mall both before and after there was a union, and I can tell you it makes a huge difference. We went from making below minimum wage to having a union contract with regular raises and paid sick and vacation time...The workers should have a right to organize without being bullied and intimidate by their employers.