Day and night, when I go shopping at Golden Farm or walk past it, I notice the many employees all around me who, day after day after day, work so hard inside and outside of the store. They work outside during blizzards, hurricanes, heat, and humidity, bending, lifting, and carrying. They move very fast. In the winter, the cashiers bundle up in winter jackets and fingerless gloves. They're just about constantly on their feet. They do their job at a brisk pace. As a former cashier, I see how fast their fingers fly. All of the employees have an admirable work ethic.
Their employer doesn't seem to appreciate them. From the time the store opened in the late 1990s up until March 2011, he made these employees work seventy-two hours per week, paid them a salary well below minimum wage, and provided them with no benefits, according to the employees and the New York State Department of Labor.
The Department determined that their boss owes them back pay for paying them below minimum wage. But he refuses to pay. Employees report that he has threatened and harassed them on the job ever since. They would like the community to help them get their back pay by applying the pressure of public opinion through conversations with their employer, community picketing, and rallies. They've decided not to ask for a boycott.
They ask that people who support their cause call the store at (718) 871-1009, ask to speak to the owner, Mr. Sonil (Sonny) Kim, and--in a calm, polite, non-confrontational voice--explain to Mr. Kim that they support the employees' position and want them given their back pay and a work contract that includes paid sick days, paid vacation days, annual raises, and job security. The employees also would appreciate it if people, while they're in Golden Farm shopping, would seek out Mr. Kim and deliver the same message.
In addition, employees hope that the community will turn out for the
Kensington Fair Food Rally
in front of Golden Farm
Friday, January 13th, at noon.
Adults and children will gather on the northeast corner
of Church Avenue and E. 4th Street,
where Golden Farm is.
New York Communities for Change has been working with the employees. Their goals for this week's Kensington Fair Food Rally are the same as those for the December 16th rally:
- Explain to shoppers and other people in the neighborhood the situation that's been taking place in the store.
- Let the owner and the employees know that the employees aren't alone, that they have the support of the community and New York Communities for Change.
- Inspire more Golden Farm employees to join their co-workers in the lawsuit.
A strategy meeting will be held in the neighborhood
on Thursday, January 19th, at 8:30 p.m.,
to discuss additional ways to support the employees,
who will also be at this meeting.
The location hasn't been chosen yet.
The background: Ten workers decided to risk their livelihood to claim their back pay. Two years ago, they contacted the New York State Department of Labor. The Department ruled in their favor and passed along the bill for their back pay to the owner. He refused to pay. The employees then decided to pursue the claim with the non-profit law firm Advocates for Justice to pressure the owner to pay the back wages.
The owner says he has proof of having paid the correct amount of wages. Employees, on the other hand, say that every week when they were paid, they were asked to sign a receipt acknowledging that they were paid minimum wage--when, in fact, they were paid less than what was stated on the receipt, in cash. They did what they were told because they felt they had no other option.
When they realized they could turn to the Department of Labor, they did so. Unfortunately, the Department is extremely slow at resolving cases like this, since they have too many cases and too few resources.
Besides working with New York Communities for Change, the Department of Labor, and Advocates for Justice, Golden Farm employees are working with the RWDSU/UFCW Local 338 union in search of justice in their workplace.
Previous posts on this topic:
- December 13, 2011: PROTEST AT GOLDEN FARM
- December 15, 2011: RALLY FOR THE WORKERS AT GOLDEN FARM
- December 19, 2011: FRIDAY'S RALLY AGAINST GOLDEN FARM: PRESS RELEASE, PICS, AND VIDEO