Greens Back Golden Boycott; Settlement Looms

January 22, 2013
Joe Maniscalco

Underpaid workers owed about $500,000 from local supermarket owner Sonny Kim got an extra boost of support from the Green Party of Brooklyn on January 19, as vocal members of the political party joined a sidewalk boycott in front of the Golden Farm grocery located at 329 Church Avenue in Kensington.

"It's very frightening," Green Party leader Gloria Mattera told LaborPress. "There's a real campaign to demonize workers. They are really at the mercy of these owners who are taking advantage of them and often not paying them for working long hours."

Golden Farm workers voted to become part of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) back in May, but continue to wait for Kim to come to the bargaining table and sign a fair contract that guarantees real job protections.

A boycott – with support from organized labor and grassroots groups like New York Communities for Change (NYCC) – was launched later in August and has continued ever since.

Supporters charge that Kim – who has sought to invalidate the RWDSU vote and even accused NYCC of paying pro-union workers at his store $2,000 for their "yes" ballots – decided to retaliate against pro-union workers by cutting back their hours.

"Now, they are making about $200 less then they were before the boycott," NYCC spokesperson Kate Barut said. "So, even if we get a contract tomorrow, the fight continues with the boycott until we see those hours back on the workers' schedules."

Golden Farm workers fearing for their jobs did not want to talk about conditions at the supermarket, but a settlement for a sum of money that is less than the total $500,000 owed them is said to be imminent.

"The main issue right now has become long-term job protection," Barut said. "This is not about the money, it's about creating jobs that are dignified for the people that work here. If we win this contract, the workers that come after us will have equally good conditions, and they won't have to worry about fighting to make this a decent job."

Mattera, who in the past decade has run for New York City Council, Brooklyn Borough President and Lt. Governor, indicated that the continuing struggle confronting Golden Farm workers is just one example of the larger fight many workers in the public sector now face.

"The city has maintained some strong union support compared to the rest of the country," Mattera said. "But teachers and other public workers are still being demonized. The cuts are being put on their backs, and many are pointing to their pensions and salaries when it's a very small part of the money that goes out compared to CEO salaries and bank bailouts."

In addition to recovering their lost wages, Golden Farm workers are also seeking a .25-cent raise over New York State's current anemic minimum wage of $7.25-an-hour, as well as restoration of their reduced hours and time for vacation and sick days.

Kim has reportedly been hiring the family of anti-union employees working at his store in an effort to keep the 24-hour grocery located between East 3rd and East 4th streets operating.

Still, boycott supporters leafleting customers outside the store, maintain that their actions are having an impact on the owner's bottom line.

"I think the numbers show it, profits have dropped, area resident Jason Garry said. "We've been out here for awhile, so there are definitely a lot of people in the neighborhood that are aware of what's happening. Most people are willing to read the information at least."


January 21, 2013

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