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!)

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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.

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.)