On Wednesday, November 21, the day before Thanksgiving, I attended a small picket for workers’ rights on Church Avenue at a grocery store called Golden Farms.
The workers were demonstrating in protest of the low wages and lack of benefits they received from their employer Sonny Kim. The workers now have minimum wage but not much else. They won minimum wage after suing the owner of Golden Farms in June of 2011. They still have no benefits, sick days, or personal days and they are organizing to win those things, as well as to be compensated back-pay for the time when they worked for below minimum wage.
How long did they work for below minimum wage?
Ask a worker: “We are looking to get back all the years he stole from us,” said Nicandro Martinez-Rodriguez, 48, who said he has worked in the produce department for 12 years – most of it making $350 a week for 12 hour days, 6 days a week. (See reference article)
Momentum grew for the Golden Farm workers as members of community organizations started showing support for the struggle of the workers. Various politicians have made appearances; New York Communities for Change has been involved; In August members of Occupy Kensington joined in support; The 99 Pickets and the Labor Outreach group of Occupy Wall Street have also been present to show solidarity with the workers in their efforts to unionize and cultivate bargaining power. Many more as well.
On August 18th a continuous boycott was started to demand the workers’ back-pay and also to demand the owner negotiate a contract with the workers. Starting at the end of November negotiations were set to begin.
There was also a message board with a great deal of written information, as to the purpose of the pickets, for passersby to read:
On this board you could find 4 pages explaining the circumstances:
Also present on the message board were 5 versions of the same comic strip; each in a different language:
Watch a video here of the pickets outside the store. At about the 2:44 mark I conduct an interview to gain more insight on the story behind the protest. At the 4:10 mark I feature a few signs from the picketers.
The next stage of the demonstration happened as soon as the 99 Pickets arrived. A few people went into the store to perform what is called a “line clog.” A line clog consists of politely choosing groceries, standing on line, and then paying for the products you wish to purchase. The only catch is, in paying for said products, you are paying with pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. There were 4 cash registers and a few more worker-supporters than cash registers who chose to do this “line clog.”
There is another demonstration planned for Sunday, December 16th. I do not know much about what they plan to do but no matter what the struggle for worker compensation, benefits, and rights is not ending soon. Here is the facebook page for the event this Sunday.
Keep updated about the Golden Farm workers struggle at goldenfarmjustice.wordpress.org
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