SAN JOSE -- Workers at Valley Fair Mall kept up the pressure on mall management for free employee parking, holding a rally at the main entrance along Stevens Creek Boulevard on Thursday.
Organized by San Jose State students, a small group of protesters held signs reading "Employee Parking is not a luxury item," "We are tired of being oppressed!" and "Worker over Profit!".
Co-organizer Sergio Gomez, an employee at The Cheesecake Factory, reflected on the moment while holding a ticket for parking in his hand in the designated underground lot for workers.
"The amount of disrespect that somebody has to make sure that I stay in a class where my family has grown up, I think that's what this symbolizes. It's very saddening, very oppressive for sure," said Gomez.
Back in February, Valley Fair launched its so-called "Controlled Parking Plan," which began charging for parking. For customers, the first 2 hours are free and each additional hour is $1. Workers must pay $3 per day or $40 a month.
Mall management said outside workers were leaving their cars there overnight and people headed to the airport were leaving their cars at the garages to take advantage of the free parking.
, delivering a petition with 1,200 signatures and began leaving negative online reviews.
On Thursday, the students stepped up the pressure, with signs and a protest along Stevens Creek Boulevard.
Gomez reflected on spending $40 a month, which amounts to $500 a year.
"I can do a lot. I can pay for a portion of my education at San Jose State. I can invest in so many different companies that will make me more money in the long run. So the possibilities are endless what I can do with $500 a year," Gomez said.
Scott Myers-Lipton, a sociology professor at San Jose State, attended the protest and said many of his own students work at Valley Fair.
"We are the most unequal place in these United States. So, how we treat the lowest paid workers is important for our society and our community," Myers-Lipton said. "And if you're asking the lowest paid workers and asking them to pay for the ability to work, that to me is an injustice."
Valley Fair released a statement:
"We support the right of employees who work at the center to voice their opinions but we remain committed to our controlled parking plan."
Gomez, a sociology major who makes $16.20 an hour, vowed to fight on.
"I think I'm a student who's come to terms with power, who's definitely smart enough to know where and when people are taking advantage. Many other people just like me need to realize, need to understand as well, that they have just as much power as any of these companies think they do," said Gomez.
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