Kensington Community Says “No!” to Union Busting at Golden Farm!

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The Kensington Brooklyn community rallies in support of the workers at the Golden Farm grocery, where owner Sonny Kim has been trying to bust the union. Kim is one of the worst abusers of workers rights in New York City, and was caught by the Department of Labor stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of the wages he was supposed to be paying his workers. No to union-busting and abuse of workers in Brooklyn!

Why Continue to Boycott Golden Farm?

Because we are so close! Workers have shared that negotiations between Sonny Kim and RWDSU/UFCW Local 338 went well on Monday, January 28. A third and what everyone hopes will be the last negotiation date has been set for February 12. We are closer now than ever!

On the picket line we hear some people increasingly voicing frustration with the length of the boycott. That this has taken entirely too long. Labor struggles are never quick and easy. That the boycott is really just turning into an inconvenience. Personal convenience is not an excuse to support employer abuse. That the workers are nowhere to be seen. Check out the countless online material of worker images, words, interviews and video sharing their experiences, thoughts and goals. That the boycott is just not working. Owner Sonny Kim sued for $3 million dollars in losses and has met twice with the union to negotiate.

Of course, our frustration and exhaustion pales in comparison to what the workers are feeling. Yet they remain strong and want to continue to fight and we will stand by them. Victories have been hard to come by but the workers have been successful!

1. In 2008 workers successfully organized to contact the NY Department of Labor to protest their work conditions.

2. In March 2011, after many years of being underpaid, workers were successful in forcing owner Sonny Kim to comply with NY state minimum wage and overtime law.

3. After successfully organizing to fight for their back pay, the law firm Advocates for Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of 13 workers in June of 2011.

4. In May 2012 the majority of the workers successfully voted to unionize and elected Local 338 (RWDSU/UFCW) as their collective bargaining agent.

5. On August 18, 2012 workers successfully mobilized the Kensington community to boycott Golden Farm.

6. After a year and half since the lawsuit for back pay was filed workers were successful in reaching a settlement.

And now, after just two negotiations between the union and Sonny Kim, workers believe that they are closer than ever to their final victory.

The boycott will not end until the workers call upon the community to do so. The workers will not do so until their demands have been met:

1. Contract (including paid sick days and a raise above the current minimum wage)

2. Reinstatement of hours

3. Reinstatement of workers

4. Compensation for hour cuts

Too much has happened to give up now. Too much stress, exhaustion, humiliation, and frustration. Too many losses. Too many tears. Too much of our selves has been poured into this little green grocery store.

We owe it to Felix and his widow and children. We owe it to the workers. We owe it to our selves.

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Golden Farm worker Martin on the picket line!

Viva la justa lucha de los trabajadores de Golden Farm…viva

Viva la solidaridad efectiva y en la práctica con los trabajadores de Golden Farm.

Vivan las justas luchas del pueblo…viva

How Much Don’t You Spend at Golden Farm?

Let’s do the math! How much money is Golden Farm owner Sonny Kim losing in business by prolonging negotiations with the workers? Fill out this form! Courtesy of our friends at 99Pickets and Occupy Kensington! Check out the following post from KARMABrooklyn Blog:

HOW MUCH DON’T YOU SPEND AT GOLDEN FARM?

_________________________________________________
 
Dear Sonny Kim:
 
I support workers at Golden Farm.
 
Before the boycott, I spent about $______ per week at
the store.
 
When you sign a fair contract with the workers I will come
back to shop at Golden Farm.
 
Sincerely,
 
Name: __________________________________
 
99 Pickets & Occupy Kensington // 99pickets.org
_________________________________________________
 
 
If you’re boycotting Golden Farm, let Sonny Kim, the owner, know how much money you no longer spend there each week. And that you’ll be back in the store, cash (or plastic) in hand, after he negotiates a fair union contract.

The boycott, requested by Golden Farm employees, has caused a 50% drop in sales on peak days. Boycotters want the owner to

  • sign a fair union contract with the employees and include paid sick days,
  • restore employees’ work hours that the owner cut illegally in retaliation for employees organizing, and
  • reinstate employees who were fired in retaliation for organizing.

To help, just fill out a paper card like the one shown above (get it from a picketer) or an online form.

A neighborhood delegation will deliver the cards to Mr. Kim.
 
This “pledge drive” is brought to you by 99 Pickets and Occupy Kensington.
 
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Why is Marcos standing on the ladder?

 

Boycott Pandemic

Nearly 50 people with the boycott rally bug came out today to brave the sunny, mid-40 degrees, balmy January weather. More than 20 did so as well yesterday!

For those of you keeping store at home there have been rallies outside of Golden Farm in 2011, 2012 and now in 2013…

Yesterday the Green Party crashed the Golden Farm sidewalk in solidarity with the Golden Farm workers:

And today allies left and left came out in full support and sang to Sonny Kim!

Struggles bring allies together and broad coalitions bring about change. Meet some of the members of the Golden Farm Justice Coalition:

The Hot and Crusty workers:

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(on left with sign) Mahoma Lopez, Hot and Crusty worker and activist: “Unionize Low Wage Workers, We Did It!”

99 Pickets brought people together:

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Sundrop wearing the 99Pickets banner with pride

The Internationalist Group:

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Charlie from the Internationalist Group speaks

Socialist Alternative was there as well:

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Pete from Socialist Alternative takes the mike

OccuEvolve, always representing:

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Malu from OccuEvolve!

And of course, Occupy Kensington:

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Gibb from Occupy Kensington

New York Communities for Change was also there.

Occupy Staten Island, Occupy Sunset Park and if we forgot to mention anyone our apologies!

Most important of all, Kensington residents of all types were present supporting the workers. The message to Sonny was loud and clear:

Sonny Kim! No contract, no peace!

Kensington has got a fever and the only prescription is more boycott! (never gets old)

Boycott Goes to Jersey!

This is what happens when you get two boycotters arrested Sonny Kim. Earlier this morning Golden Farm boycott supporters braved the cold and crossed the Hudson River to the land of New Jersey. Fort Lee, NJ to be exact. Among the protesters were Marty and Andres.

Why? To visit Sonny Kim and his wife Sharon Kim at their residence in their fortified luxury condo in NJ. The units sell for a cool $600,000 if you are looking to move to Jersey. If you can’t join us at our picket lines outside the Kims’ building, let them know how you feel by mailing a  a letter directly to the following address:

Sonny and Sharon Kim

1512 Palisade Avenue, Apt. 19A

Fort Lee, NJ  07024

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Boycott in Fort Lee, NJ! (Sonny did not take this picture)

Of course, this isn’t the only property the Kims own. They recently sold a $1.1 million home in Bergen Count, NJ.

So how do the Kims afford a $1.1 million dollar home and a $600,000 dollar condo? It might have to do with the fact that for many years they paid their workers $4.86 per hour and currently give them zero paid days off (no vacation, personal, or sick days, let alone holidays – the store NEVER closes).

Sonny: We look forward to meeting your neighbors! Already 58 of them received a flyer in their hand this morning!

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Sonny and Sharon Kim talking to a cop.

Paid sick days for all! Living wages NOW! Fort Lee or bust.

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!)

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.