September 23, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
Brooklyn, NY – Supporters who have spent the last year fighting hard for the rights of underpaid workers at Golden Farm 24-hour market on Church Avenue in Kensington are not about to ease up now that an important anniversary in outstanding contract negotiations between owner Sonny Kim and the employees’ union has been reached. (Watch Video)
September 20, marks one year since RWDSU Local 338 was officially certified as the union representing workers at the Golden Farm supermarket – and now worker advocates fear that instead of finally signing a fair contract, Kim will now try and move to decertify the union.
“[Workers] are now at this very scary moment as a result of it being a year on where the Kims are going to move to decertify their union and roll all that progress back,” New York City Councilman Brad Lander said at a pro-worker rally held in Kensington last weekend.
Occupy Kensington, the Green Party of Brooklyn and others joined with the Rude Mechanical Orchestra on a spirited march along Church Avenue to Golden Farm where they renewed calls for a customer boycott of the popular 24-hour store.
“For many years [Kim] did not pay minimum wage,” said Occupy Kensington organizer Eleanor Rodgers. “His workers have organized, they’ve taken legal action and joined the union. They have forced him to pay minimum wage and he has responded by fighting their union every step of the way and persecuting workers who have been at the forefront of organizing.”
Those close to workers inside Golden Farm say that despite the owner's efforts to weed out dissenters, there nevertheless, remains a core group of employees who are steadfastly dedicated to the union.
Rogers is betting that an energized customer base turned off by Kim’s shabby treatment of his workers will help convince the owner to ultimately sign a contract.
“We are gathered here today to show him, amongst other things, that his problem is not just the union,” Rodgers said. “His problem is his workers who aren’t treated properly, but it’s also his customers. Or – more accurately – his former customers. Because we are not going back to shop there until he treats his workers properly. Until he gives them a fair contract.”
Green Party of Brooklyn members have been among the most supportive of the Golden Farm workers’ struggle, helping to stage weekly boycott rallies outside the store located at Church Avenue and East 41st Street.
According to Green Party of Brooklyn spokesperson Michael O’Neil, shoppers are taking increased notice.
“Every week that we’ve been out there, the people driving by are honking more often, the people walking by are smiling and giving the thumbs up,” O’Neil said. “This neighborhood has been responding to this boycott and we are thrilled to be part of that.”
Councilman Lander called Golden Farm workers’ contract demands – a decent wage, paid sick days, vacation time and healthcare – “very modest goals.”
“They are going to continue to fight, but I know how much it means to have the support of their neighbors,” Councilman Lander said.