Unions And Korean Small Business
April 24, 2003
Unionism is spreading among workers of Korean small businesses.
It promotes a labor movement against Korean-owned groceries and
delis and has been increasing constantly.
Local 1500, one of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local
Unions based in New York City, for instance, successfully initiated
the first employee organization at Korean groceries in September,
2001. Although successful in some places in Manhattan, the labor
movement was quiet on the surface since then. However, the movement
has begun to be visible recently.
According to one Korean owner of a deli on 49th Street in Manhattan,
the union seems to be appearing in other shops around his grocery
as well. The UFCW Local 1500, before it formally organized a union,
approached Hispanics working in Korean-owned shops and asked for
information such as hourly wage, working hours, working condition,
overtime wage, and any delayed paychecks. If one of these does not
satisfy their criteria, Local 1500 uses the information [against]
the Korean owners by reporting it to the police.
The labor union itself has a legitimate reason to promote rights
of employees through improving working conditions and welfare of
employees, and their ultimate goal serves the growth of business.
It is a necessary vehicle for workers. However, it is true that
[the labor union] uses illegal procedures and improper activities
and protests to achieve its aim.
There is no way to stop the labor movement because the law ensures
and protects workers rights to [organize]. Therefore, once
employees seek to organize, it is reasonable for employers to find
a way to co-exist and compromise with them through conversation.
There is a more fundamental and important task for employers. Labor
organizations are persuading workers to pursue collective action,
by stating a violation of labors working condition. If employers
provide employees with proper wage, adhere to legal working hours,
ensure a working environment that satisfies employees, and treat
them equally, there is not as much reason for employees to join
a labor organization. The labor conflict [exists because employers
have problems, not] employees. Like the old saying, it is better
to manage the horse and the stable than to lock the stable after
the horse is stolen.
The Police Department of New York State provides a Code of
Conduct for Korean small businesses that suffer from labor
activities. If the owner signs and follows the rules, they are reprieved
of the search and penalty. However, only 7.5 percent of Korean owners
signed the Code, which shows the lack of effort and recognition.
Korean small business has to consider its business beyond the short-term
interest at hand and move toward reasonable and proper management
so that it can confront the labor movement without any worries.
Translated from Korean by JooYeon Lee
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