September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document
Title:Agreement reached between Koreans and Mexicans
Author:José L. Llanes
Blurb:This agreement provides deli owners with the opportunity to rectify their relationships with workers and comply with the law, said New York State Attorney General Elliott Spitzer of the Code of Conduct established between Korean greengrocery owners and Mexican workers to improve working conditions at delis around New York.
Body:State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced yesterday an agreement between Korean greengrocery owners and Mexican workers to improve working conditions at delis around New York.
The agreement, or Code of Conduct guaranteed workers minimum wage, paid vacation and sick days, lunch hours, holidays, and the right to organize a union.
In exchange, deli proprietors who sign the code before December 31, 2002 will not be subject to investigation by the attorney generals office into their refusal to pay back wages or overtime and the poor working conditions responsible for tensions between both parties since 1998.
This agreement provides deli owners with the opportunity to rectify their relationships with workers and comply with the law, explained Spitzer. The attorney general was accompanied by Andrew Kim, president of the Korean American Association of New York; Gerardo Domínguez, co-founder of Casa Mexico and the Mexican Workers Association; and Coleen Gardner, director of community service for the New York AFL-CIO. Gardner helped negotiate the code.
I exhort deli shoppers to patronize only those stores where workers are treated with dignity, said Spitzer.
When we began the campaign for better working conditions we were beaten, intimidated, they spit in our faces and threw fruit at our heads. And, as we are not angels, we began to protest, said Gerardo Domínguez. For this reason its better to resolve [the conflict] in an amiable way.
A total of 20 stores signed the initial agreement out of an estimated 2000 in the city.
This is a good example for all minority communities and a good opportunity for new immigrants and new owners to build a stronger relationship in the future, said Andrew Kim, who hopes that 500 stores will sign the code before the end of the year.
Language barriers have also played a key role in the labor dispute. Many of these workers only speak indigenous languages and are just starting to learn English and even Spanish. Some worry constantly about being fired. Now we will have more protection, said indigenous worker José Rosendo in broken Spanish.
At the midtown deli Smilers at Eighth Avenue and 45th Street, the atmosphere was slightly different.
In our case we have always had these benefits, said store manager Roberto Delgado as he attended to customers. According to Delgado, owner Albert Chin has always had a good relationship with his workers and provided them with benefits. Now we will also sign the Code of Conduct. We have been here for 20 years without a problem, added Delgado, one of nine Mexican workers employed at Smilers.
The agreement calls for independent supervisors to monitor compliance with the code and the creation of a workers hotline to report violations: 1-800-729-1180.
i>Editor's note: An article about this settlement appeared in Korea Times New York in last week's Voices. Read it a href="http://www.indypressny.org/article.php3?ArticleID=345">here/a>.