YOUTH PROTESTORS—A group of young people attended the rally to show support for the cause. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
Hundreds of protestors marched from Target to Bakery Square in East Liberty on July 24 to protest low-wage jobs as part of a city-wide demonstration.
The protests, which coincided with the 4th anniversary of last federal minimum wage increase, came in response to a report showing that Target and other companies’ profits are going up while they are among the biggest low-wage employers in the nation.
“The way we do development in this city is pretty messed up,” said community organizer Angel Gober. “It doesn’t help the communities where it’s happening. There’s no real effort to make sure the people in the neighborhood are getting jobs and to make sure they’re family sustaining jobs. There’s no way people can make it on such minimal income.”
The Target in East Liberty, which opened in 2011, is among several newer developments in the neighborhood, such as Bakery Square, a mixed use development, that have received tax incentives. However, despite the surge in development, those at last week’s protest say East Liberty residents haven’t benefited as promised.
“There needs to be more transparency in terms of economic development. We often find out about it after the checks have been signed. The community needs to be a part of the planning process. We don’t need to give tax credits or tax subsidies to these big companies like (Bakery Square developer) Walnut Capital who make millions of dollars and don’t provide jobs.”
This month Pittsburgh City Council approved a new tax break for infrastructure improvements in East Liberty, in an effort to prepare the neighborhood for a series of new developments. Among them are a hotel, housing complex, and a six-story office and retail building.
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“There’s going to be a big push in retail around here and I want to see the residents who have been here through bad times benefit from all of this,” said Alethea Sims from the Coalition of Organized Residents of East Liberty.
Protestors at the rally called on Congress to raise federal minimum wage and index it to inflation. At the local level, they asked that tax payer dollars not be given to developers creating low wage part time jobs with no benefits
“I am a low income resident of East Liberty,” Sims said. “My organization has a workforce development aspect so I can see the frustration of residents up close and personal, how hard it is to get a job and how hard it is to get a job you can live off of.”
A 2012 report by the National Employment Law Project, found that 66 percent of low-wage workers are not employed by small businesses, but rather by large corporations with more than 100 employees. According to NELP 92 percent of the 50 largest employers of low-wage workers were profitable last year and 78 percent have been profitable for the last three years.
ALETHEA SIMS from East Liberty speaks to the people outside Bakery Square.
(Photos by J. L. Martello)
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