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Aug
2013
15

Relentless Brooklyn Community Group Action Making a Difference in Grocery Story Wage Fight

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In Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park neighborhood, community groups launched a boycott of a grocery store whose owner is refusing to sign a contract negotiated by employees through the RWSDU/UFCW Local 338.  The coalition of orgs, which includes New York Communities for Change and Occupy Kennsington, began their protests and boycott last year before calling it off this past March when Golden Farm owner Steve Kim agreed to meet employee demands.  Now, with those demands as yet unmet, the people of Ditmas Park are back on the streets demanding fair wages for workers.

The original protests resulted in minimum wage compliance after workers and their allies claimed $4.86 an hour was being paid, frequently for 72 hour work weeks.  Mr. Kim has acknowledged that he agreed to pay 12 workers a total of $95,000 in withheld overtime pay. However, the contract which was agreed upon by workers through Local 338 has yet to be signed by management.  Because of this, the boycott of Golden Farms by the community kicked up anew:

In a letter to store owners, Occupy Kennsington stated their reasoning behing the boycott:

Last week, Occupy Kensington and NYCC inquired about the status of the contract negotiations between Local 338 and Golden Farm. Based upon the information we received regarding the negotiations, Occupy Kensington has reached the conclusion that it was a mistake to have supported suspending the boycott. NYCC will be re-launching the picket line, and we shall join them on it. Furthermore, Occupy Kensington shall tell all of our community supporters to return to boycotting.

Occupy Kensington will not call off this boycott until the workers have a fair contract, regardless of the actions of Local 338 or NYCC.

We believe it is your hope that you can drag out the negotiating process and ultimately decertify the Union. You may think that you will have won a victory if you do so, but, in fact, you will have permanently lost a substantial portion of what used to be your customer base.

The boycott has hurt business. This was one of the reasons that the community groups called off their boycott in March, because the situation was so dire that it began to effect workers, too. In September of 2012, Sonny Kim filed a $3 million lawsuit claiming that protests had caused a 20 percent decline in revenues.  

At the time, NYCC organizing director Johnathan Westin, stated that, “Instead of spending money for lawyers and this lawsuit, the store owner should have spent the money on repaying the back wages he owes.”

The degree of dedication of the Ditmas Park community is not common. The constant attention paid to the situation by NYCC and Occupy Kennsington have protected workers from retaliation. Even with this outpouring of support, sadly, more action is needed to force management into to do what is right.

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