Meet Martin (no need to walk into Golden Farm)

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Martin on the job!

Easiest Golden Farm employee to spot. Always outside (summer, winter, rain or shine, night or day, or HURRICANE!). He is on the quieter end of the spectrum, but if you want to get him going ask him about his favorite soccer team (Pumas); or if you are into music perhaps one of his favorite artists  (Lisandro Mesa); or just simply ask him about his hometown in Mexico (Chalco) and his wife and three children for whom he works for ever since he arrived to his first and and only job in the United States in 2007.

Why did Martin join his coworkers and sue Golden Farm owner Sonny Kim for his back-pay as well as organize to demand a fair contract?

[Martin] Gonzalez said he often comes to work sick, because he cannot afford to lose pay, and he worries that missing work could cost him his job.”

Brooklyn Downtown Star – Far from Golden Workers protest conditions at store

“Every worker deserves paid sick days,” said Martin Gonzalez, a Golden Farm worker who has worked without paid sick days for five years. “We are organizing here at Golden Farm so we don’t have to choose between our health and our pay checks every time we get sick. Getting sick shouldn’t mean risking your job. We’re proud to have the support of the community.”

Caribbean Life News: Community Protests “Sick and Fired” Policy at Golden Farm

Before the union election on May 2, 2012, when the majority of the workers voted to unionize, Martin noted that:

“[T}he clash is no longer just between the workers and the owner, said Golden Farm employee Martin Gonzalez. Many of the store’s cashiers—who Gonzalez said were in fact making minimum wage prior to the lawsuit—are angry with the other employees for stirring the pot, and have told customers that the other workers are lying about receiving unjust wages.

“I hadn’t realized that cashiers were being treated differently from all of us. On the average, they’ve been paid at or above minimum wage, whereas we’ve been paid way below the minimum wage,” Gonzalez said. “It’s really exhausting not only to fight with the owner, but also to be fighting with our own compañeros inside the store.”

Gonzalez said he feels confident that the election will be a success, despite lack of enthusiasm from some of the store’s 24 employees, as well as threats from Kim to call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“I think that we can win the election at this moment, because we are even more committed,” he said. “Before we were afraid of speaking up, and now we are not afraid. If immigration comes, let it come.”

Windsor Terrace Patch: Community Plans Next Steps for Golden Farm Workers

Though he claims to be shy, the camera seems to always follow him!

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WATCH this video from Univision!

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WATCH this video from Telemundo!

And why does Martin believe that this 2 year fight has been worth each and every moment of stress, anxiety, and fear and even though he along with his coworkers has been continually harassed by management?

“Since we started our fight to be paid at least minimum wage, the workers at Golden Farm have been victims of different types of attacks from management, and the owner, Sonny Kim, has done nothing to stop them,” said Martin Gonzalez, a Golden Farm employee. “We believe that the state of New York should be free from discrimination and the exploitation of workers, and we are fighting to ensure workers who stand up for their rights are not threatened with jail time and deportation by management.”

KARMA Brooklyn Blog: Friday’s Rally Against Golden Farm

Better yet, you don’t have to read or listen to anything on this blog. Walk up to Martin and say “Hola Martin, como estas?”, he can be found outside of Golden Farm, by the grapes or the onions, where he has been working every single day  since 2007 (except Thursdays when he rests).

He’s a good guy to have as a neighbor since he lives on E. 4th Street within very short walking distance from Golden Farm.

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P.S. his brother Victor also works with him at Golden Farm (but we already met him!)

Santa in Kensington! (Grinch sighting also)

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Santa says boycott!

Thank you Kensington! Since we made public the toy drive for the children of the Golden Farm workers the response from our neighbors has been overwhelming. We have already published a picture of the very first toys donated. Check out this new picture! The bags are full of toys and most are brand new. Keep them coming! Happy holidays!

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Bags full of gifts! Thank you!

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Steve Kim is the Grinch. This is what happens when you pour bleach on Kate’s jeans Steve!

All we want for this holiday season (besides more gifts for the children) is a contract for the Golden Farm workers.

Cheers!

 

A Golden Farm Christmas

We understand that not everyone celebrates Christmas this holiday season. However, the children of the Golden Farm workers that have been fighting for living wages and paid sick days for close to two years definitely do. It’s been a tough year. On July 12  brother Felix Trinidad passed away. On August 17 (the day before the boycott began) the owner of Golden Farm, Sonny Kim, cut the workers’ hours (and thus their salaries by nearly 40%).

In light of this, the Kensington community has decided to celebrate a gift drive for the children of the workers at Golden Farm supermarket. We have met Javier’s daughters (ages 7, 3, and 1) in this blog, as well as Felix’s children (little girl age 8, and her younger brother age 5). Antonino, Felix’s brother (who was also employed at Golden Farm and was forced out because of financial duress last month) has a 1 year old son and his wife is expecting a daughter in February.

When we called upon the community to support Felix’s widow Anastacia and their two children the Kensington community responded with nearly $1,500 in donations via the NYCC donation page.

We now call upon all of our neighbors to donate gifts that will be age appropriate for the children of the affected workers.

Donations can be dropped off at any time in the box on the porch at 308 East 4th, between Church Ave and Albermarle Ave.

Already one neighbor has responded! Below is a picture of the gifts she donated! THANK YOU!

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Thank you!

This holiday season we ask for paid sick days for all! Living wages for all!

Don’t be a grinch Sonny. If you sign the contract and reinstate the workers’ hours  then we promise to do all of our holiday grocery shopping at your store. Until then we will continue to take our dollars elsewhere, like the Foodtown on McDonald Avenue where the workers enjoy a union contract.

Happy holidays!

Why I am Boycotting Golden Farm

Why I am Boycotting Golden Farm

By: Neil S. Weintraub, Kensington resident

I admit it. When the boycott at Golden Farm started, I was skeptical. In fact, I was more than skeptical, I was cynical; I thought it was ridiculous.  “Who are these people?” I thought, and I scoffed at the idea that standing in front of the store for a few hours a week would have any effect at all.

Don’t get me wrong. I support the workers all the way. It’s just that, well, Golden Farm is a pretty good place to shop. Not as big as a full fledged super-market, but the produce is usually fresh, there’s a good variety of dry goods, and-most of all- the prices are great! So good, in fact, that if an occasional strawberry rots before I get to it, there is no hard feelings.  Yes, the prices are great.

Well, it turns out there is a good reason why the prices are so low. Mr. Kim, the owner, was not paying his workers very well. There were no benefits, no sick days, no health care. And you know what? If I had stopped to think about it for a minute I would have realized that. Well, it’s a tough economy.- it’s a small grocery store, what do you expect? The workers probably want me to shop there. After all, if no one shops there, why would Mr. Kim need to keep them on?

Then I found out that Mr. Kim was not even paying his workers minimum wage. That’s a bit of a problem. The minimum wage in New York State is $7.25 an hour. People who work a seven hour shift at this rate earn $58 per day, or $290 per week. People who work full time at the minimum wage and have a family of four are living below the poverty line.

AND MR. KIM WAS PAYING THEM LESS THAN THIS.

Still, a boycott seemed severe. Maybe a letter writing campaign, maybe if we shop there and ask to speak to him, and try to talk some sense into him-these are things I could more easily get behind. Then I heard that the courts were involved. This made me feel better-it would all get worked out. Then I heard that Mr. Kim had agreed to pay the workers minimum wage. Besides, the cashiers told me that some of these workers weren’t such nice guys; weren’t hard workers; partied too much.

The truth is, though, I enjoyed the convenience and the low prices.  But I realized that I was guilty. Mr. Kim is paying these guys with my money. The prices are low because the workers are poor. It is really that simple.  The very thing that I liked about the store is the very thing that is wrong with it. If Mr. Kim is guilty of cheating the workers, then I am his accomplice. I am in on the scam, and, just like Mr. Kim, I am profiting from their poverty.

I miss shopping at Golden Farm.  Really. I particularly miss the cashews. But I miss the reasonably priced milk, yogurts, oh, and that delicious thick round bread that I can’t seem to find either at Foodtown or Fairway.  I am eager to go back there. But I can’t shop in a place where I can’t look the workers in the eye because I am stealing from them.

I am boycotting Golden Farm because I need to make up for my participation in the unfair treatment that I was a part of. I am not angry. I don’t think Mr. Kim is evil or greedy. I think he was kind of like me- unaware of how important this is.  I hope Mr. Kim can see my boycott as an opportunity for him to do the right thing here. When he does, I’ll be first on the check-out line.

Free Marty and Andres!

Breaking news from 7a.m. Monday morning: Golden Farm political prisoners Andres (NYCC organizer) and Marty (first time volunteer from Washington Heights) (you read that correctly, first time volunteer) were released from their jail cell on Monday morning around 7a.m. after having spent nearly 20 hours locked up. The upside is that they were unlawfully arrested and that they are now better friends than they ever thought they would be.

On September 24, 2014 the court issued a stipulation in the matter of Golden Farm Church Ave against New York Communities for Change et al where it was stated, inter alia:

Defendants and /or their agents shall not enter plaintiffs store, block the entrance, block the egress or access to plaintiffs store or shall or stand in front of doorway.

Defendants shall stand at least five feet away from plaintiffs produce stands located outside plaintiff’s store and shall not restrict traffic within 5 feet of the store.

Defendants shall not tape bills posters signs or other materials on plaintiff’s property.

This agreement is without prejudice to plaintiff’s claims or defendants’ defense and is not an admission of wrongdoing or unlawful action by defendants.

Andres and Marty were standing underneath the awning at Golden Farm to avoid the rain on Sunday, December 9, around noon. Sonny called the police and showed them the video shot by the security camera as they stood beneath the awning and the stipulation. The two police officers decided they had the right to arrest Andres and Marty. The police officer later admitted to the attorney from Advocates for Justice that she made a mistake. Charges will be dropped. The NYPD has no business enforcing a stipulation in a civil suit. Hopefully the NYPD can be sued to stop this from happening again.

Chalk!

Chalk!

The good news is that Sonny Kim has not seen the last of Marty and Andres! They both can’t wait to hit the picket line again!

Sonny Kim: You can’t arrest justice! Screw us and we multiply!

Solidarity always.

Committee to Free Marty and Andres

Boycotters arrested

An eyewitness account from Kensington resident Gibb Surette:

Sonny Kim has been trying for months to get picketers in front of Golden Farm arrested, on every pretext from “interference” with his business to his claim at one point that he actually owned the sidewalk.  At mid-day on Sunday, December 9, he saw his chance.  An NYCC staffer named Andres, and a community volunteer named Marty got out of the the cold rain for a bit by stepping temporarily under the awning and within five feet of the building.  Sonny got them on video and immediately called the NYPD to enforce a protective order.  There had been a legal agreement that included NYCC keeping picketing five feet from the store, but converting this into a criminally enforceable protective order should have required, among other things, notice to NYCC.  Apparently, no one at NYCC had received such notice, but Sonny is notorious for providing false statements to public authorities (e.g. the NYS Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board), so he may have told the court that the legally required notice had been given.  In any case, Andres and Marty, by then back out in the rain near the curb, were relieved of all objects on their persons, placed in handcuffs, and hauled off to the 66th Precinct.   The two brothers had been alone on the line.  Pretty clearly, Sonny hoped that he would eliminate the picket for the afternoon, perhaps leaving signs and literature unguarded.  However, just before the arrests took place, I arrived for my usual Sunday shift as a neighborhood boycott volunteer.  NYCC staff were alerted, the organization’s criminal lawyer was quickly brought into play, and word went out to community supporters, who began showing up in front of the store to keep the picket going.
Meanwhile, between talking to potential customers as usual, recounting Sonny’s history of theft and fraud, I amused myself with  a text very similar to the following, which I bellowed into the store at the top of my lungs: “Sonny Kim!  You can cut hours and wages in retaliation!  It’s illegal, but you’ve done it!  You can try to avoid a union by committing fraud!  You’ve done that, too!  You can stall recognition and negotiation for months!  You’ve done that!  Sonny, you can threaten workers with everything imaginable, up to and including the loss of their homes, and you have done that!  Obviously, you can get picketers taken away in cuffs for stepping out of the rain!  You’ve just done that!  But, Sonny, intimidation has not made the issues–or us–go away!  And it’s not going to!  Sonny, if you want the pickets and the boycott to go away, it’s very simple!  GIVE THE WORKERS SOME JUSTICE!”
Some of the people I spoke to characterized Sonny’s actions in getting Andres and Marty arrested as “disgusting”, or said “I understand now, and I’m not coming back”, or simply observed, “You’re winning”.

Why is the boycott working?

Because the Kensington community believes in paid sick days and a living wage. Or at least a VERY NOTICEABLE percentage of the people. How much exactly? Hard to quantify. Sonny did sue NYCC for $3 million dollars and alleged in his suit that since October 2011, 20% of the business had disappeared. We would argue that since the boycott started on August 18, 2012 that the  percentage has been higher.

Not everyone is a supporter though. People loooove their Golden Farm. On the picket line we get to meet AND hear from Kensington’s finest! These scabs, sorry, fine neighbors, come in all shape and sizes:

The “Stuck in the Cold War” type:

“Go back to Cuba you communist!”

The “A–hole That Takes Flyer and Crumples It” type:

“Get the F— out of my way!”

The “Hipster Gentrifier” type:

“I feel for the workers but this store has the best Kombucha. And the microbrew selection is off the hook. Sorry man.”

The “Straight-up Racist” or “Brown People Who Speak Spanish are Not Human Beings” type:

“These illegals don’t deserve anything. These Mexicans shouldn’t be here in the first place!”

The “Still Stuck in the Matrix” or “The NYTimes is My Bible” type:

“This is just horrible. They should just file a lawsuit or call the Department of Labor and everything will be taken care of…You say they already did? Good, then why are you out here? I’m sorry, I really have to go inside and get some groceries quick. Good luck with everything.”

The “Smarty Pants I’ve Talked to ALL the Workers and They Don’t Want You Here” type:

“This isn’t going to work you know…if you boycott how is the owner going to have money to pay the workers? I’m really good friends with all the workers and they don’t want you out here….You’re asking me if I speak Spanish and if  I’ve talked to all the workers? No.  Just a couple cashiers.”

The “Don’t You Realize I’m a Walking Contradiction”  or “Convenience Justifies Crossing Picket Lines” type:

“Listen, I’m on your side. I’m pro-union. I’m  a supporter, I signed your petition a while ago. Why am I still shopping here?  Because this is such a convenient store, and Foodtown is really pricey, McDonald farm is not as good. This is just a really convenient store. I only shop here when I need to anyway.”

The “I’m From Another Planet” type:

“You guys are just trying to close down this store so you can open your own! Don’t think for a second you’re fooling me!”

Good times! We could go on and on. Fortunately however, there are the types that believe in basic human decency, labor rights and solidarity. Local residents Rabbi David Siff and Jennifer Fortune are just a couple examples:

Thank you Rabbi! Thank you Jennifer!

They (among many others) are the reason why this boycott is working and why at some point soon (knock on wood) Sonny Kim will do the math and realize that making peace is the sensible thing to do for his business (if we forget about justice for a second). The proverbial ball continues to be in his court. Sign the contract Sonny! We want our Kombucha!

(and also to shop in a union shop where the workers have paid sick days, raises, vacations, personal days and cannot get fired without just cause.)

The Professor and the Farm

Golden Farm and the Fight for the Rights of Low-Wage Workers

As everyone in the Kensington neighborhood knows by now, the Golden Farm grocery has been the site of an ongoing fight by the store’s workers to obtain their rights to fair wages and working conditions. This fight began over a year ago when the Golden Farm workers took the store’s owner, Sonny Kim, to court to put an end to his illegal practice of wage theft. With the Kensington community’s support, and the support of dedicated community organizations and local leaders, the workers won their fight to be paid the legal minimum wage,  had a union certified to represent them, and are now fighting to get Kim to sign a contract guaranteeing them their basic rights.

What everyone may not know is that the Golden Farm workers courageous effort is part of a citywide movement that has been going on over the past decade made up of low wage workers, many of them new immigrants, to stand up against the rampant exploitation that takes place in many industries and demand that they be treated fairly, legally and decently as valued workers and members of our communities.

MEET WORKERS and find out more about this vibrant new wave of organizing that is taking place in Kensington and beyond with Professor Immanuel Ness of Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center for Worker Education and author of Immigrants, Unions, and the New U. S. Labor Market. Professor Ness has been actively documenting these important and exciting developments for the past 15 years, and has much to share about the history of workers and communities coming together in the fight for fairness—where we have come from, and where we can go together.

Don’t miss this great discussion!

Thursday, December 13, 8:00 PM

309 East 5th Street (between Church and Albemarle Avenues)

Sponsored by Occupy Kensington and Golden Farm Justice