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Twin Cities retail janitors prepare to strike

  • Article by: Dee DePass
  • Star Tribune
  • June 7, 2013 - 8:09 PM

 

Retail janitors across the Twin Cities have called for a 48-hour strike starting Monday unless contracted cleaning firms agree to labor contracts that let workers unionize. It would be the second strike in four months.

Members of the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) said that about 40 janitors are preparing to strike starting at 6 a.m. Monday. The janitors plan to picket Target’s Minneapolis store on Nicollet Mall on Monday and Tuesday. Several also will picket Target’s annual meeting Wednesday in Denver.

As for Monday, those gathering at Target in Minneapolis will come from 25 stores around the metro area, including 12 Target stores and 13 other retail locations that include Kohl’s, Home Depot, Sears and Kmart stores, said CTUL organizer Brian Payne.

Janitors plan to walk off their jobs at Target stores in Minneapolis, Oakdale, Apple Valley, Shakopee and Woodbury. They also will walk off jobs at Kmart in Minneapolis and Burnsville; Sears at the Mall of America; Home Depot stores in Fridley and Elk River; and Kohl’s stores in Brooklyn Center and St. Louis Park.

Local members of the CTUL, which is part of a national interfaith center for worker justice, said they have been trying to organize 600 Twin Cities retail janitors for about three years. In lawsuits and complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, janitors allege that their employers frequently force them to work overtime with no pay, deny breaks that are mandated by law and sometimes threaten or harass workers if they complain or attempt to organize.

In February, Minnesota janitors who clean Target stores won a $625,000 settlement from Diversified Maintenance in Tampa, as part of a class-action lawsuit. Janitors alleged they were forced to work up to 80 hours a week with no overtime pay.

While the janitors clean stores with household names, they are employed by large contract cleaning firms such as Diversified Maintenance, Prestige Maintenance USA in Texas, Carlson Building Maintenance in White Bear Lake and Eurest Services in Pennsylvania.

On Monday, Anisca Floor Maintenance in Rochester signed labor agreements with its janitors, allowing them to unionize. But repeated attempts to meet with the other firms have largely gone nowhere.

Contractors did not return phone calls seeking comment in time for publication.

Target spokeswoman Amy Reilly said Friday that she was aware of the janitors’ complaints, but said, “We contract with vendors to do our housekeeping services. Those [with questions] should reach out to those vendors directly and ask them about it. None of these housekeepers are actually Target employees.”

Reilly added, “We do meet regularly with our vendor services and the contracting teams and audit them regularly. We have very stringent ethical and business standards, and if they are not abiding by them, we take various actions. That is our routine and continues to be the case.”

 

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725

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