Golden Farm Boycott Starts Back Up, Pickets Tonight & Wednesday

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golden farm boycott 2013

After agreeing earlier this year to suspend boycotts against embattled Kensington grocery store Golden Farm, neighbors, Occupy Kensington members, and New York Communities for Change were once again on the corner of Church Avenue and E 4th Street this weekend, fighting for workers’ rights.

In March, the campaign–which had included steady picketing outside the store since last year–was halted in an effort to convince Golden Farm owner Sonny Kim to sign what they say is a fair union contract offered by Local 338.

While at this point workers are being paid minimum wage (although, previously, store manager Steve Kim stated they were receiving it all along) and Kim has agreed to pay a total of $95,000 to 12 workers for withheld overtime pay, Occupy Kensington says no such contract has been signed. From their blog:

Last week, Occupy Kensington and NYCC inquired about the status of the contract negotiations between Local 338 and Golden Farm. Based upon the information we received regarding the negotiations, Occupy Kensington has reached the conclusion that it was a mistake to have supported suspending the boycott…

Occupy Kensington will not call off this boycott until the workers have a fair contract, regardless of the actions of Local 338 or NYCC.

Golden Farm protest

In the full letter, Occupy Kensington says while it was simple enough to temporarily call off pickets, it was not so easy to convince locals to return to shopping at Golden Farm. Several of the store’s formerly-stellar Yelp reviews have been turned on their heads as a result of the workers’ rights campaign, and last fall, Sonny Kim even lodged a $3 million lawsuit against NYCC for a 20% loss in revenue.

According to a statement from Local 338, Kim is sticking to his guns in negotiations, refusing to give workers paid time off, and saying he could easily find new staff to work for less than minimum wage.

golden farm boycott 2013

Those present at Saturday afternoon’s demonstration included District 39 Councilmember Brad LanderState Senator Eric Adams, Green Party mayoral candidate Tony Gronowicz, and Marty, a campaign volunteer and former transit worker from Washington Heights who was arrested last year at a demonstration outside of Golden Farm (charges were dropped soon after).

senator eric adams via occupy kensington

State Senator Eric Adams via Occupy Kensington

We reached out to Golden Farm this morning, but were disconnected without comment.

What stance are you taking in regards to Golden Farm?

  • I'm with Mr. Kim on this one--if you don't like your job, leave it. I'm shopping there. (19%, 26 Votes)
  • I feel for the workers, but I love the store, too. I still shop there on occasion. (13%, 18 Votes)
  • No matter how good the store is, it won't get my business until he gives workers what they deserve. I'm not part of the campaign, though. (44%, 61 Votes)
  • Not only am I not shopping there--I'm involved or will be involved in picketing and spreading the word. (24%, 35 Votes)

Total Voters: 140

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If you’d like to join the action against Golden Farm, there are pickets from 7-9pm tonight as well as 6-8pm on Wednesday–and whomever you’re supporting in the campaign, let us know why in the comments.

  • http://www.lifetimemoviereviews.com/ Jen

    There needs to be another option on the poll – I’m not “with Mr. Kim” but I do think that it’s an economic reality in our part of town that many workers are working off the books for less than minimum wage. How about a poll option for “Occupy Kensington should walk one or two doors down and fight for the people working at THAT store?” I think they’ve done all they can at Golden Farm–especially because the workers themselves don’t seem as into a boycott as the politicians and activists. I think it’s obnoxious for them to park themselves in front of the store, creating noise (a lot of times they bang on a bucket like true Occupy Wall Street-ers) so that these workers get PAID TIME OFF! Are you kidding me?

    • Jane

      are you aware that a worker died because he had no time off to see a doctor? if he had even one or two days a year, his life could have been saved. he left behind a wife and small children.

      • Lew

        If you’re that sick you go to the doctor no matter what anyone says. That’s not anyone’s fault but the person who died.

        • Juanita

          Thank you for this. You are a wonderful human being. PS You can have an undetected serious illness with minimal symptoms. But of course if you did, it is your fault according to your logic.

          • guest

            he knew he was sick with cancer it wasnt undetected. was he told he would be fired for taking days for chemo or unpaid? it is very sad he died for whatever the reason. if someone is in this position and paying into social security and payroll taxes and is unable to work can they apply for disability? if you are illegal Status i don’t think there are very many options unfortunately.

    • Jess

      I agree, my stance doesn’t quite fit with any of the voting options. Maybe an “other” option with space for comment.

    • Eleanor Rodgers

      From the new OK flyer trying to address some of these questions:

      Why have we singled out Mr Kim’s store not any other in the neighborhood?

      Firstly the workers at this store started this campaign, and they did so because of their dreadful pay and conditions. Golden Farm is not a Mom and Pop store, it has around 30 employees and the pay and the conditions there were worse than in many smaller local stores. When a large employer lowers wage levels like this they undercut the smaller ones and drive them out of business, which is in fact what happened to the grocery store which used to be across the street from Golden Farm, where Saki is now

      • http://www.lifetimemoviereviews.com/ Jen

        Thanks for the info, Eleanor, even if the person writing the flyer never learned about run-on sentences. It’s good to know it’s all done with the support from the workers, even though I never see them out there.

        But why is Golden Farm not a “Mom and Pop” store? I certainly don’t think it’s publicly traded. And what are the “conditions” that were so much worse than the stores around them? The personal story of the man who died because he was afraid of lost wages is sad, but unfortunately it happens every day in this country.

        • Eleanor Rodgers

          Mom and Pop stores are typically properly small businesses that employ less than 20 people. The difference in conditions at Golden Farm and the Mom and Pop stores around it vary but I’d be prety confident that few of the smaller stores have as systematic verbal abuse of employees by managers for a start.

          • http://www.lifetimemoviereviews.com/ Jen

            Oh, so it’s not a Mom and Pop store because it has 10 more employees than Mom and Pop stores “typically” employ? Um, OK. And if you’re going to protest every business in New York that has an asshole boss you’re going to stay awfully busy. Maybe you should show Mr. Kim some anti-bullying videos and call him a “meanie beanie” and see if he shapes up. No…hitting a bucket over and over in front of his store is probably the better way to go.

          • Eleanor Rodgers

            Thanks for the constructive suggestions there Jen. If you check out labor, tax andother workplace legislation you’ll find that 20 employees is generally considered the absolute upper ceiling on being able to call yourself a properly small business. For example the new sick pay legislation that city council passed despite Bloombergs attempt to block it applies immediately to businesses with over 20 employees and next year will extend to those with over 15.

          • jjlnyc

            Here’s a constructive suggestion, El-Rod: Rent a store, stock it with merchandise, and hire away all the GF workers you are fighting for

          • Gina

            would be nice if the protesters didn’t shout things at people passing by and were peaceful like you want of kim. I hope you realize while you protest kim your protesters should be more considerate to neighbors because they are ruining business for people on that side because people want to avoid being yelled at or unable to pass easily.

          • Juanita

            There was no yelling or obstruction as described the few times I was there this week. When did you observe this?

          • guest

            guess you were there ” the few times” so you may have missed it. it happens and it makes others question the protest.

          • Juanita

            Nobody ‘s been hitting a bucket. Maybe you need to get your hearing checked dear Ms. Jen. No need for videos. That’s why we have laborious laws.

          • jjlnyc

            I have heard the bucket-banging too – and if you cant hear it little Juana, maybe YOU should get YOUR hearing checked?

          • http://www.lifetimemoviereviews.com/ Jen

            They certainly were pounding a bucket back in the fall. I guess I’ll need to get my vision checked, too, because the bucket-hitting sound kept happening when someone pounded an overturned bucket.

            Look, I know it’s hard for all you Occupy Kensington people to feel good about your activism when you realize the community finds you more annoying than helpful, but you don’t have to use terms of endearment to be condescending to me. Your condescension is clear every time I walk into that store and you assume it’s because I’m not enlightened enough to realize the “GREED” that I am supporting.

        • Juanita

          What do you mean you never see the workers” out there”? They’re not on the sidewalk because they’re working.

          • jjlnyc

            How about the ones that are not on-shift during the whine-fest? They are home enjoying their family-time, while the gringos who are trying to feel good about themselves (cuz heaven knows, there probably isnt much TO feel good about themselves) do all the whining and shouting and banging for them

          • LJC

            The Golden Farm workers often have to work 12-hour shifts to make ends meet. Some are working second jobs, after putting in an 8-hour shift at Golden Farm. I hope this helps answer the question you have posed. Maybe it will help this dialogue if we all step back from making assumptions about one another’s (and the immigrant workers’) characters and motives. There are some serious issues at stake in our community and hopefully we can move in a good direction.

          • jjlnyc

            It’s one thing to whine and shout and moan and groan when a biz won’t do what you want it to do, and certainly anyone’s right not to patronize that biz.

            But to make demands that disinterested parties also adhere to your OTHER demands not to patronize a place? That will NEVER lead to a “good direction”

            “We demand THIS!” “We demand THAT!” “We DEMAND we DEMAND we DEMAND!”

            You protesters DEMAND a LOT, but I dont see much in the way of OFFERING anything – other than your voices of demand…

      • Gina

        sorry to say but the store across the street probably went out of business bc the product selection was awful. It’s not like they the store was even kind of good. come on stop spinning it!

      • jjlnyc

        Then how about you go because most OTHER people don’t want you there? :-)

    • LJC

      I am not a member of Occupy Kensington, just a community supporter of the Golden Farm workers (so I don’t speak for anyone but myself). I am sure are right that any number of workers in this neighborhood are working for less than minimum wage. Hopefully, they will be able to organize themselves (as the Golden Farm workers did) and ask for community support. It’s pretty standard from my own experience with labor issues that groups like OK and NYCC let workers take the lead in asking for support – not the reverse. This has been the case at Golden Farm. As I understand it, paid sick days are now the law in NYC, though sadly not in time for some.

  • Gina

    if we boycott mr. kim doesn’t it feel weird to shop in most of the stores doing the exact same thing. Forget food town what a rip off that place is. do the workers know they will make less money paying dues and taxes? Just wondering if anyone part of the boycott can explain this.

    • Eleanor Rodgers

      They already pay taxes, they won’t make less money. And they will have better working conditions.

      • guest

        dues come from pay, right? How would they take home the same money? I dont fully understand this. If Kim paid back wages and is paying what he is supposed to even if not a great salary why is he required to sign for a union? He has 20 employees, how many are his family and does that change anything about mom and pop? curious.

        • Eleanor Rodgers

          He’s required to negotiate with the union because a majority of his employees voted for it. He has close to 30 employees, (it goes up and down I think it’s 28 right now) That includes 2 family members. Dues do come from pay. The union has them on a lower dues rate becasue they are no0t getting traditional union wages. If hte union wins the small raise asked for int eh contract and gets them the sick days vacation days etc the workers will end up financially ahead of where they are now even with paying the dues.

          • guest

            what is. ” traditional” union wages?

          • jjlnyc

            It’s whatever these bigmouths decide, methinks!

      • guest

        so was kim underpaying them on the books if they pay taxes? if they all pay payroll taxes how does that work that he was able to do that? Please explain ” traditional” dues vs. what they will pay into union? How is it possible they won’t make less money and what would be Kim’s motivation to increase employees salary after all of this? Can Kim fire for workers who don’t do the job well in the future if he was unhappy with their performance once part of union? do you need to have a social security number and pay taxes to be part of a union? I dont know enough about it. i am not against your cause or for it right now but I am against the yelling and making that entire side of the street unpleasant and a place to avoid even to go to the other stores. the behavior of some of the protesters is obnoxious.

  • Guest

    You are hurting the employees he will never accept

    • Guest

      how there is bunch of teenagers working there now

    • Eleanor Rodgers

      We’re working with the employees, who voted to join a union and are asking him to sign a contract.

  • Arthur

    Is it obnoxious that the protesters are in front of the store or is it that you don’t like being reminded that what you’re doing is wrong. It is wrong to support greed. It is wrong to support the abuse of power, in whatever form it takes, just because you find it convenient.

    • jjlnyc

      Nah, it really IS obnoxious that protesters are in front of the store. You cant remind people that what they are “doing is wrong” because, simply, it’s NOT wrong, and all your shouting and whining does not MAKE it wrong.

  • Brian S

    Good lord. Picketing is the narrowest-focus, feel-good action possible to address wage inequalities. Banging pails and yelling at patrons shopping at an established business is ludicrous and doesn’t generate the sympathy required to make such tactics effective.
    Mr. Landers, I voted for you because I thought you were capable of adult negotiation, not for your stunts. If you are serious about ending inequitable work, shouldn’t there be a legitimate study of comparative wages in the area that also addresses the wage abuse that *many* recent immigrants experience?

    • Eleanor Rodgers

      Why is everyone going on about bucket banging? there hasn’t been any since the boycott restarted. Just people (mainly local residents) standing in front of the store handing out flyers and urging people not to shop there. I mean i’m not ruling out that there might be a louder protest at some point but you all are tlaking as if we’re doing nothing but banging things. Come by while we’re there this evening – 6:30-8:30 and check out what’s really happening.

      • guest

        right lets get back to the terrible tuba playing and forget the bucket. I guess we don’t know what’s really going on when your protesters call people names in front of children.

        • LJC

          I support the Golden Farm workers and their union. If some protesters are indeed calling people names this is counter productive. I have not seen this happen during many times when I’ve picketed, and if I did see it, I would speak strongly against it. Hopefully, reasoned conversations will help people to better see what is going on. I have had some good conversations with community members, even if they didn’t agree with me. (And in a few cases, they ended up being far more sympathetic after putting many questions to me that I answered with what I hope was patience and politeness. )

          • jjlnyc

            If you support them, then go ahead and SUPPORT them – start a business, hire them at whatever wage you deem righteous. MUCH more productive than demanding that OTHERS do what you can’t or won’t. Certainly more productive than expecting third parties (shoppers) to follow your instructions not to patronize a business that wont wont follow your wishes.

          • Brian S

            LJC, I agree with you on many points, and you obviously have every right to express your dissatisfaction, but my question remains unanswered: Why can’t a larger effort be marshalled to address this problem? As Jen said, issues of wage violations are certainly not confined to one business on Church Avenue. Why not work for a larger good? Is it solely because Golden Farm is one of the few businesses on our stretch of Church Avenue with more than 20 employees, and so convenient from a legal standpoint? The proverbial low-hanging fruit?

            Again, why not ask the folks who actually run the system to address flaws in the system (Brad)? Why not appeal to people who can directly deal with the owners to deal with the owners, instead of people who just want celery?

            I *am* sympathetic, it just breaks my heart to see people from my neighborhood pitted against other people from my neighborhood over an issue that all the people from my neighborhood elected someone to be available to confront.

    • LJC

      From what I’ve observed as a community member, I would say that Brad Landers has taken a multi-leveled approach, which I think is a good thing. On the one hand he used his vote in the city counsel to help make a certain amount of sick days mandatory in NYC. On another level, he has joined some of the Golden Farm rallies, which has helped draw some attention to the issue (it’s one of the ways that political figures can serve the community). As for the picketing that has gone on, what I have seen and participated in has been not involved any banging or yelling at patrons. I can understand why this might be considered counterproductive, but it is not what has been happening in my experience.

      • jjlnyc

        I have been yelled at, berated, had whistles blown almost in my ear, heard the pots banging. Funny how nobody will admit to it though! :-)

      • Brian S.

        My issue is that appearing at a specific “rally,” that affects one store, is a stunt. Yes, there are workers’ issues at Golden Farm, as many other commenters have pointed out, but singling out one business out of many risks creating a “straw man” effect where once the Golden Farm issue is “resolved,” other egregious violations of workers’ rights could be ignored amidst the dapping, backslapping, and high-fives for one small victory. Council-people are supposed to take a longer view, precisely because they have the resources and mandate to do so.

        As for the picketing, I maintain that this is extremely short-sighted and this time and energy would be much more productively spent at 1 Chambers Street or on News 12. And yes, I haven’t been personally insulted in months but that doesn’t preclude the possibility of some of the more… eager protesters to cross that line.

        Lastly (and flame away), Golden Farm is in negotiations with the workers who want a union. Negotiations. They aren’t required to acquiesce to the workers’ demands. That’s why it’s a negotiation, and that’s why it should be clear that street-level pressure is not the answer. If you really want this to work, get a mediator. *This* is a role for Mr. Lander, and I’m sad he hasn’t risen to it.

  • jjlnyc

    I have a good idea – how about all you protesters pool your funds, rent one of the vacant stores nearby, and start your OWN business to compete w/GF? You can pay the higher salaries you demand that GF pays, and offer all the benefits you feel are due the workers. And I am sure you will be able to be competitive, price-wise, so that everyone will want to shop at your wonderful store.

    I have a feeling though, that this will not come to pass. It is a shame that there are SO MANY people who don’t have what it takes to do things themselves, but are always so pleased with themselves to try to tell OTHERS what THEY should or should not do. If you are going to curse the darkness, be prepared to light a candle. Don’t like what someone is doing? Stop whining to everyone and do it better yourself!

    It’s awful really – in the case of GF, nobody on on the GF side is forcing anyone to do anything – nobody forced to work there, nobody forced to shop there.

    Yet these protesters feel it their obligation to try to impose THEIR will on everyone who may not agree with them. And they try to hide behind a banner of the law, but in reality, they are not even satisfied when the law is being followed, if their own wills are not enforced too.

    • Juanita

      Wow what a great suggestion. Next time I hear about a mass murder I guess I’ll buy a gun and kill fewer people.

      • jjlnyc

        I would hope that unless you are an active law enforcement agent, that you kinda do NOTHING…

  • jjlnyc

    ” Based upon the information we received regarding the negotiations…..”
    Serious shortage of facts here… notice how OcKe chooses not to list this phantom “information” or it’s provenance?

    “Occupy Kensington has reached the conclusion…”
    OcKe really holds itself up as the Judge and Jury, doesn’t it? :-)

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