Occupy Kensington, in Brooklyn, NY, has been supporting the efforts of a group of workers at a local grocery store to unionize. Their hard work is finally paying off.
Almost 2 years after it first started the boycott of Golden Farm is over!
This week the workers met with members of Occupy Kensington to inform us that they now have a contract.
The contract includes paid sick days, holidays and vacation time and a 35c raise. which takes their pay above the minimum wage, for the first time. It also includes a “good cause” clause, which requires that there be a reason for firing an employee and the right of the workers to have active union representation (something the owner Sonny Kim deeply objected to for the last two years).
This victory is a testimony to the determination of the Golden Farm workers, the support they received from their union, RWDSU Local 338, and from our community.
For the workers and their union the fight is not completely over, not all issues are resolved yet and of course they have to make sure that Mr Kim honors the contract. The workers will continue to build the union in their workplace and fight for their rights.
For our community the time has come to end the boycott and start shopping in our new union store.
It will feel strange for many of us who have been boycotting for so long to go back into the store and obviously it is a personal choice whether to return there or not.
We do not believe Mr. Kim has changed his personality or his fundamental attitude to his workers but he has been forced to concede what they, and we, have been asking him for, a contract, and it is now the job of the union to make sure it is enforced. The positive role our community can play now is in demonstrating to him the practical advantages of giving his workers a contract by returning our business to the store.
Thank you for your support
The workers asked that we pass on these messages to the Kensington community.
“We the workers of Golden Farm thank you for all your help, thank you for your time on the picket line. Above all thank you for making this campaign a dream come true – a campaign that nobody stopped, only victory.” Yours Truly Martin Gonzalez
“Hi, My name is Roberto and in the name of my co-workers from Golden Farm we greet you most sincerely and thank you very much to everyone of you for the unconditional help. This victory is also yours. Thank you to everyone and God bless you.”
Occupy Kensington would also like to thank everyone who supported the boycott by not shopping there but also for all the other acts of support:
Thank you to everyone who spoke to Mr Kim or his manager expressing their support for the workers.
Thank you to the lady who went on vacation and left a note for her apartment sitter telling her where the best local takeouts were and NOT to shop in Golden Farm. (The sitter stopped by our picket line to find out why).
Thank you to the local graphic designer who made us very cool buttons, and the teenage Hasidic rapper who composed a song for the workers.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the support fund for Felix’s wife and children after he died, and everyone who contributed to the Xmas toy drive for the worker’s kids.
Thank you to the local blogger who wrote reviews of alternative places to buy good fruit and vegetables.
Thank you to the dedicated few who chalked the word BOYCOTT on the sidewalk day after day.
Thank you to everyone who joined us in front of the store for pickets, or rallies, and to everyone who stopped by to get updates and find out how the campaign was going.
And thanks also to the members of the Green Party, Socialist Alternative, Occuevolve and OWS Labor Outreach Committee who helped us sustain the pickets over the course of the last 2 years and to the Rude Mechanical Orchestra for visiting us several times.
The boycott is over. For the workers in Golden Farm the struggle continues. They have a contract, now they must ensure that Mr Kim abides by it. Occupy Kensington will continue to be in contact with the workers and let Mr Kim know that our community continues to take an interest in their situation.
Occupy Kensington continues to meet, discuss and campaign on issues both local and further afield. We have recently gotten involved with the $15 Now campaign which is pushing to raise the minimum wage to $15. In Seattle they have already succeeded. San Francisco will vote on $15 this fall. In Chicago, 21 city aldermen have put forward a call for $15. In NY, Cuomo has recently been forced to verbally shift his position and commit to supporting legislation which would allow municipalities to raise the minimum wage by up to 30% above the state level. But we can expect resistance to any attempt to seriously raise the minimum wage and also attempts to water it down by putting in a lot of loopholes. It will require a serious grassroots campaign to make sure working people, including the Golden Farm workers, get what they deserve.
To read about the history of this years-long labor dispute–including attempts at intimidation and efforts to pit immigrant groups against each other–visit the blog “Kensington Community Supporting Justice for Golden Farm Workers” at goldenfarmjustice.wordpress.com.