We encourage all of you to get to know the workers that chose to organize and stand up for their rights at Golden Farm. Though there are certainly new faces inside the store that were not part of the original workers that began to organize, you can perhaps start by saying hello to Victor Hugo next time you walk by the store or run into him along Church Ave or on East 4th. If you go inside he is usually working in the section where the cucumbers are found (but don’t forget that you can’t buy anything because we are boycotting until the workers have a fair contract!).
You might want to first listen to Victor’s radio interview from WBAI’s Radio Building Bridges: Your Community & Labor Report from April 23, 2012 over 99.5FM.
To help you recognize him, below are a couple pictures from a radio interview with Felix Trinidad and a Telemundo Channel 47 report on the Golden Farm campaign.
Felix (center) and Victor (right) at Radio Impacto interview.
Victor (left) looks on as his co-worker Jesus (night shift) struggles to stay awake for a Telemundo Channel 47 interview.
In case you can’t get enough green grocery organizing in your life with the Golden Farm boycott, the editorial board recommends the following read:
Immigrants, Unions and the New U.S. Labor Market
While the link is only a preview of the book by Immanuel Ness, the case study highlighted in Chapter 4 tells the story of green grocery organizing during the years 1997 – 2003 in NYC. The ghost of Golden Farm past!
On the picket line people often ask us: why are you picking on poor Mr. Kim? or why are you trying to close our favorite local store? Besides the fact that the owner of Golden Farm, Sonny Kim, was sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars in owed wages to his employees and that he has so far refused to sign a contract that would honor the NLRB certified election in his store, this campaign is far bigger than just one store in Kensington.
Golden Farm is just one store among many grocery stores, car washes, fast food restaurants, and other low wage industries where workers are organizing in NYC. Even the New York Times has picked up on the work:
Union Efforts Over Conditions at Grocers Split Two Immigrant Groups
Planning a March and Envisioning a Movement, to Unite Low-Wage Workers
Drive to Unionize Fast Food Workers Begins
Challenging Owner to Raise Wages, Workers at a Second Car Wash Vote to Unionize
My name is Gibb Surette. The owner of Golden Farm has robbed his workers of half a million dollars (not yet repaid), verbally and even physically abused them, unlawfully retaliated against them for wanting to join a union (cutting hours and incomes for union supporters with families, threatening to get them evicted, and more), stalled union certification (now final) and negotiations for months with meritless appeals (now defeated), attempted frauds on state and federal agencies, tried to justify his actions with ethnic slanders, and now pays minimum wage without sick days. He has done all this on my very doorstep, to my neighbors. When they voted to call for a community boycott, how could I fail to honor it? How could I side with greedy, lying, lawless, racist Sonny Kim against them? I will not be a line-crossing scab and support a sweatshop in my own neighborhood! And that’s why I support the Golden Farm boycott.
Golden Farm workers, from left to right: Martin, Antonino, Felix, Roberto (front), Cecilio (back) and Victor, standing in front of NYCC Workers Committee banner.
For those of you that missed it, check out KARMA Brooklyn Blog’s coverage of the Thanksgiving eve actions. Nearly 500 signed petitions in support of the boycott were collected and close to 100 people marched, danced, and chanted in support of the workers. Labor rights are human rights!
Supporters of the Golden Farm Boycott Out in Force
It only took two years. Golden Farm workers began organizing in December 2010 and today, November 27, 2012 Sonny Kim finally sat down to negotiate with Local 388 RWDSU/UFCW. The contract sought by the majority of the workers that voted to unionize would guarantee the following basic protections for all the employees at the store:
Paid Sick days
Paid Vacation days
Paid Personal days
Nothing is guaranteed until Sonny actually decides to do the right thing. The ball continues to be in his court. Other stores similar to Golden Farm have settled their lawsuits and signed contracts for their workers. Soon perhaps, Golden Farm can be an example for other stores to follow in Kensington. We support small businesses in our community, but only those that treat their workers (our neighbors and friends) right. Until that day however, the boycott continues!
Golden Farm sidewalk chalk art
Golden Farm worker Martin Gonzalez and Kensington resident Laura Castro
I was appalled when I found out what was happening to the workers at Golden Farm. Shopping at Golden Farm had been very convenient for me, as I live only a few blocks away. In all probability, however, I live only a few blocks from the workers themselves: they too are my neighbors. When I heard about the boycott and started joining the picket line, I was temporarily out of a job. Though I have been able to return to middle class work, these circumstances only heightened my awareness of the fragility of life for those who exist on the economic margins and are denied even the meager dignity of respect on the job and a few contractual rights. Supporting the Golden Farm workers has been a no-brainer for me. In times like these, we are all in this together, whether we realize it or not. I am witness to the fact that prospects for American workers and their families are not what they were a generation ago. Substandard wages and conditions for some are lowering the floor for us all. Hopefully, people at the grassroots can start turning this around. I have been greatly encouraged by bravery of the Golden Farm workers, the energy of community organizers from New York Communities for Change, the acknowledgment of so many passing motorists who honk in response to our signs, and all the neighbors of so many ethnicities and backgrounds who have gone out of their way to shop elsewhere until this struggle is won—hopefully soon.
Lianna Gomori, Kensington resident, shows off her “I Support the Golden Farm Workers” button to the world.
I support Golden Farm workers because I am a teacher. I am dedicated to helping children succeed in school so that they can have good jobs and comfortably feed their families one day. Many of my students are being cheated out of this future, not because of the quality of education provided to them, but because of what happens when parents are working too many hours to spend time with them, and don’t have enough money to afford food, books, health care, or leisure activities. I can’t support a store that chooses to support this cycle of poverty. Until those workers are paid the money they are owed, and treated with respect, I will be shopping elsewhere.
ESL/ELA teacher, The Evergreen Middle School for Urban Exploration
Golden Farm grocery store manager Steve Kim says the store will “never” sign a union contract, even though the NLRB has certified the store workers union, Local 338. Say it ain’t so, Steve!
Thanks for helping our friends and neighbors at Golden Farm to make a better life for themselves and their families!