In a letter circulating among mall employees, organizers say “It is unreasonable and unsafe to expect exhausted mall employees to walk off-campus where parking is free or take a pay cut for simply using their car to commute to work.”
The letter demands that mall management offer free parking passes for “all levels” of mall employees. If the demands are not met by Feb. 14, employees will say they will hit Valley Fair where it hurts, its reputation. They say they will downvote the mall on social media.
Westfield’s mall management held a meeting on Jan. 18 with store managers to discuss the parking plan. Most attendees left feeling disheartened after mall management told them if employees can’t afford the parking permits, they’re encouraged to utilize public transportation and carpooling.
Antonio, an employee at Diesel, is one of the more outspoken critics of the plan. He says the Jan. 18 meeting left employees with no other options.
“The general consensus from managers at stores I stopped at was it’s wrong,” said Antonio. “Whether employers were covering the costs or not, employees are not happy. It isn’t fair. Especially to those whose employers aren’t covering. I think it’s also very damaging to the contractors who are also working in the mall. The cleaners, for instance.
“[Employees are] upset, frustrated, confused,” said Antonio. “We are the literal backbone of the center, yet we’re being charged for parking. In the [Jan. 18] forum, several people asked about additional discounts for passes and management said for those individuals to pay the $3/day pass or take public transportation. That’s really not okay to tell staff. It comes off as so inappropriate to tell your workers to further put themselves at risk for exposure of COVID to use public transportation when they have vehicles to use.”
Employees believe that this isn’t about “safer parking” but rather greed.
When asked about the frustration expressed by employees, a spokesperson for Westfield Valley Fair referred to a fact sheet on the controlled parking plan which outlines the cost to employees—$3 per day or $40 per month. Mall management also “encourages” but does not require employers to buy employee parking passes.
During the Jan. 18 meeting, one attendee asked whether paid parking would deter hiring. Mall management told the group that property improvements and the work done to create such a beautiful center should make Valley Fair an ideal place for retailers and employees.
“They are going to keep posting about how great the mall is on their Instagram, while we call them out for their tone-deaf policy,” said Antonio.
When asked if this makes him think twice about working at Valley Fair, he says absolutely.
“The environment has to be safe, fair, accessible. Valley Fair already isn’t safe with limited sanitation stations, security not enforcing masks. They’re currently showing us that they’re not fair by charging employees to park,” said Antonio. “Really has me personally thinking about working for such a ‘great’ center. Kind of a sham and people are starting to see that.”