As clergy leaders from Queens Congregations United for Action, we minister to families from all walks of life struggling to make ends meet. It is not just that we are living through hard economic times.
The truth is that it has become much more difficult for working people in Queens and across New York to turn hard work into a better life for themselves and their children. It is harder for people in our congregations to pay for housing, send their children to college and save for retirement. And that is not good for families, congregations or our city.
The good news is that while growing inequality may seem overwhelming, there are concrete things we can do in our communities to change the story. Our faith-based alliance of congregations in Queens has joined a righteous fight to increase wages and working conditions in New York City, beginning with the Queens Center Mall. We are fueled by a vision where everyone has access to a good job, which is the primary pathway out of poverty, into the middle class and achieving the American Dream.
The Queens Center Mall is an example of a large employer in our city that is not sharing in the sacrifice our families have all had to make. It is the most profitable mall in the United States per square foot. And its owner, the Macerich Corp., has received $50 million in taxpayer subsidies and is due to receive millions more.
Yet most of the 3,000 jobs at the Queens Center Mall pay at or barely above the minimum $7.25 per hour with no benefits.
Families from our community have spent millions of hard-earned dollars at the mall this past Christmas season and throughout the past year. Yet they are finding that despite hard work, they cannot earn enough to support their families with dignity. Too many have to choose between a bus fare to go to work and food for the table.
The American middle class was built on the idea of paying workers a decent wage so they could buy the products they make. We have lost sight of the simple truth that we all benefit when we all have economic opportunity.
Queens Congregations United for Action, along with Make the Road NY and the RWDSU, call upon Macerich to share more equitably in the fruits of the labor of those who work in and shop at the Queens Center Mall.
More than 5,500 community members, along with state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), state Assemblymen Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) and Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) and City Council members Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) and Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) have signed post cards urging Macerich to adopt a living wage provision in lease agreements for all mall workers of $10 with benefits, a union neutrality agreement and community space for programs and services that serve our families.
If Macerich fails to contribute to the economic health of our community, it should not receive public support to expand its footprint in New York City.
Let us remember those walking in the darkness and burdened by poverty wages everywhere, especially at the Queens Center Mall. Our faith and shared values require us to love our neighbors as ourselves. We call on the Queens Center Mall owner to be a better neighbor by giving back to the community and help us rebuild the middle class in New York.
The Rev. Darrell Da Costa
St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church
The Rev. Pierre-Andre Duvert
Episcopal Church of the Resurrection
Monsignor Thomas Healy
Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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