For those of us based in “suburban” Brooklyn, grocery stores are few and far between.
To reach my nearest grocery store, I cross a major highway, walk down two avenues, and over six streets. That’s not unusual in many parts of New York City, which is why places like Golden Farm in Kensington, Brooklyn, are so important.
Golden Farm is not what you’d call a “supermarket,” but it’s much more than a bodega. I discovered the store in early 2011 while exploring the neighborhood with my daughter. It was very appealing—good looking fresh fruits and vegetables, an amazing array of international offerings, and low prices.
Perhaps that last point should have tipped me off.
The owner of Golden Farm, Sonny Kim, hadn’t been paying his workers minimum wage. According to the folks at New York Communities for Change (NYCC), who have been helping the workers organize, this had been going on for a long time. “Since its opening in the late nineties the store hasn't paid minimum wage or overtime,” they said, with staff working 12 hour days, six days a week, for an average of $6 per hour and without any benefits.
Last year, workers at Golden Farm filed a lawsuit for $500,000 in back wages. The good news is that after the filing, Mr. Kim began paying minimum wage. But that’s as far as he went.
Along with the back pay that is owed to them, the workers want a contract with sick days, vacation, and job security. They won an election to unionize, but the results have been contested by Mr. Kim.
In support of the workers, NYCC organized a 24-hour boycott in April. More than 800 potential customers honored the boycott, and NYCC estimates the store lost close to $150,000 in revenue. Mr. Kim refused to budge.
Last Saturday was the kickoff to a second boycott. This time Mr. Kim responded: He cut hours for almost half the workers.
The workers are committed to win this fight. They plan to keep the boycott going until Mr. Kim gives the workers a contract or the store goes out of business. Period.
You can do something to help. Tell Mr. Kim how you feel by signing the petition to at http://www.nycommunities.org/chapter/1219/tools. Show your support for the boycott by joining with the workers and community members this weekend.
New Yorkers like to support neighborhoods businesses. But just as all of us want to be respected by our employers, we need to make sure our neighborhood businesses respect their workers —in Brooklyn, and throughout New York City.