Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Kensington Residents Helping Workers Get the Wages They Deserve

A wage battle is gaining momentum in Kensington as ten workers enlist support of neighborhood residents to fight for the wages they say are owed to them by the Golden Farm Grocery.

The ten men claim that they did not receive minimum wage from their boss, store-owner Sonny Kim, until last year when the workers began organizing with New York Communities for Change and filed a law suit. They say that until that time they were only paid $4.86 per hour for 72 hours of work per week, with no increased pay for overtime. Kim has refused to pay the back wages the workers say he owes to them.

“We are looking to get back all the years he stole from us,” said Nicandro Martinez-Rodriguez, 48. He worked in the produce department of Golden Farm of 12 years, earning only $350 per week for working 12 hour days 6 days per week.

Kensington residents have been supporting the men’s efforts to recoup their money by protesting in the store, signing petitions, going door to door to get support, and informing more people on-line.

There are even some people who are boycotting the grocery store, including sending notes to Kim explaining that they will not come back to shop there until he pays the workers what he owes them.

“I just don’t feel comfortable continuing to shop there knowing that the workers weren’t being respected,” said Brian Pickett, 33, an adjunct professor who has also handed out info sheets to customers leaving the store.

“I’d like to resume shopping there once the owner accepts his responsibility.”
 But store manager Steve Kim disagrees with the accusations. “We keep American rules and regulations 100%” he said. “The Spanish guys don’t know English writing and reading. How would they know American labor law?”

 Roberto Ramirez, 40 has been employed at the Golden Farm Grocery for six years. He says the encouragement that he received from the store’s customers gave him the courage to take a stand.

“They treated us like slaves,” Ramirez said. “I am seeing that the community is supporting us...They are the ones who had actually been motivating us to do this.”