SANTA CLARA (KPIX) -- Westfield Valley Fair Mall is facing growing backlash from mall workers, who are upset over a new parking fee that would charge them as much as $40 per month to park at the popular South Bay shopping destination.
The "Controlled Parking Plan" -- set to go into effect February 8 -- will require employees to pay $3 per day or $40 for a monthly pass. The workers must also park in designated spots in the "subterranean Stevens Creek garage or at any of the shopping center's rooftop levels."
By comparison, for customers the first two hours are free, but they will be charged $1 for each additional hour. The maximum daily limit is $10. Moviegoers will get their first four hours free, with each additional hour costing $1.
Westfield Valley Fair Mall issued a statement:
"This new controlled parking plan is part of a broader focus on security at Valley Fair. It is also designed to limit the parking inconveniences experienced by Valley Fair customers as a result of the substantial number of vehicles left on site each day by individuals heading to work elsewhere in the Silicon Valley community or embarking upon travel plans to nearby San Jose International Airport. By creating a more controlled parking environment, the hope is that the already popular center brings even more customers to support retailers allowing them to flourish."
Viet Ngo, owner of Vietnoms Restaurant, said the parking fee was one more burden heaped onto business owners already struggling with health restrictions, multiple COVID-19 surges, supply chain issues, hiring challenges, and rising inflation.
Ngo will pay the $40 fee for full-time employees, but cannot afford to pay for part-time workers.
"We're all for increased safety, but they said that this would be better for all of us. How is this better for us? How is it better for minimum wage employees to have to pay $40 a month?" said Ngo.
In June 2021, the mall held a grand reopening touting its billion dollar renovation. In September, the mall hosted a large job fair with more than 150 openings, a reflection of the nationwide struggle to find and retain workers in the retail and food industries.
Ngo said a parking fee would make it even more challenging to hire prospective employees.
"Now you're telling them, 'Oh, and you also have to pay $40 a month to work here.' That doesn't make any sense to me" said Ngo. "It doesn't make any sense to any other people running other stores who are already finding it hard to have enough employees to stay fully staffed up."
Employees have begun to organize opposition to the new fees, with an online petition that has garnered 429 signatures as of Friday evening, and claimed Valley Fair could make as much as $51,000 per month from employee parking fees alone.
If the demands for free parking are not met by February 14, organizers will "retaliate starting Tuesday, 15 February 2022, by downvoting the Westfield Valley Fair on Google, Yelp, etc. We will downvote until our demand is met."
Group leaders are also considering escalating protests and actions against the mall.
"They're treating us like commodities, or ways that can bring in extra revenue into their property. What's unfair is, we are the workers who are keeping these doors open so that people can come shop here. Try to look at us as the people who are keeping this place alive. I guess, I'm just asking for some respect, which is what most employees are asking for," said Ngo.
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