October 23, 2012 by FPM
We, members of Occupy Wall Street’s 99 Pickets, recently deployed a line clog for almost an hour to support the worker-led boycott of the Brooklyn grocery store Golden Farm.
Sonny Kim, the owner of Golden Farm had paid workers below minimum wage for well over a decade. He owed half a million dollars in back wages, he was fighting a successful vote for union recognition, and had illegally retaliated against workers by cutting their hours.
In August, workers at Golden Farm asked the Kensington community to boycott the store. Still in effect, the boycott often cuts business by 50% or more on busy days, pressuring owner Sonny Kim to bargain fairly and quickly with the workers.
Fifteen people filtered into Golden Farm, picking up anywhere between one to twenty items for purchase. We entered the checkout lines, often bunching two or three 99 Pickets “plants” in a row.
As we reached the cashiers, we grew dull and hard of hearing; we moved slowly and realized that we forgot certain essential items. Some people repeatedly went back to get the things they needed, and others immediately pulled out a series of expired credit cards and huge sacks of small change. The line cloggers slowly counted pennies and nickels, only to find that they had lost count, or didn’t quite have enough, or accidentally dropped dozens of pennies all over the floor.
Long lines of customers snaked through the aisles, and the situation slowly dawned on manager Steve Kim. He grew increasingly frantic, trying to shove our members to the count their money on the side, unknowingly ushering several more incognito line cloggers into position. He tried to help counting coins himself, enlisting the help of bemused cashiers and other workers, but ultimately this only created greater confusion: we repeatedly lost count of our totals. The owner’s wife shouted at us to “Roll your coins! Roll! Roll!” but no one asked a line clogger to leave. (As the store was open for business, we had every right to be there unless otherwise indicated.)
While waiting in line, we gave out flyers and told fellow shoppers about the workers’ campaign for economic justice and a voice in their workplace.
We left this inaugural 99 Pickets “line clog” with energy, excitement, and a desire to repeat, adapt and expand this tactic. Workers at the store also felt the action was fun and effective.
As the boycott of Golden Farm continues, and as we approach the busy holiday shopping season, we hope that this tactic proves useful for other groups’ supporting workers in New York and beyond.