Community
4:13 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

East Liberty Protesters March for Better Paying Jobs

Protesters rally outside the East Liberty Target Wednesday.
Credit Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

Hundreds of men, women and children sang, screamed and chanted outside of the East Liberty Target Wednesday to call out one of the nation’s largest low-wage employers.

Residents are demanding that the development taking place in the East End directly benefit the community.

According to protesters, Target entered a “gentleman’s agreement” with the community before the store was built, saying that the shopping giant would hire East Liberty residents and offer them well-paying jobs to revitalize the community.

Two years later, protesters say Target hasn’t held up their end of the bargain.

“It was promised when they built these stores that they were going to pay people more than minimum wage, but they didn’t keep their promise — especially Target,” community activist Hazel Blackman said. “They didn’t keep their promise and people are struggling. They can’t even feed their families.”

Protesters marched along Penn Avenue from Target to Bakery Square.

Kendall Mason, spokeswoman for the group One Pittsburgh, said low-paying jobs aren’t going to cut it in East Liberty.

“I can’t speak to the details,” Mason said, “but we do know that there were tax incentives for both Target and Bakery Square to be built. We do know that they were promised to offer good jobs to the community, and we haven’t seen those materialize.”

Alethea Sims of Concerned Citizens of East Liberty said if development in East Liberty is going to continue, the community needs to come first.

“This whole revitalization needs to be done differently so it’s not hurting people, that it helps the people who stuck out in the bad times," Sims said. “Why not to help us take advantage of the good times.”

At the time of publication, Target had yet to respond to a request for comment.

Wednesday marks the fourth anniversary of the last federal minimum wage increase, and demonstrations took place all over the city.

The coalition is challenging Congress to raise minimum wage to follow the rate of inflation.

Sims said she knows of two East Liberty residents employed by the Target, both of whom had their work days reduced to one day a week and are paid minimum wage.

Sims said this conflict is similar to the dispute that erupted several years ago between the Hill District and Consol Energy Center.

“The low income residents that have been there get moved out,” Sims said. “New housing comes in they can’t afford. Jobs come that they can’t get and it has to stop somewhere.”