Chains have refused calls to establish standards against abuse
[Watch for an update here about CTUL’s new campaign]
On Saturday, three hundred retail cleaners and allies marched through south Minneapolis to Lunds, Supervalu and Target. The Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), the workers’ organization which called the march, says that cleaners in local stores have been systematically denied overtime, have lost wages over alleged “accidents” and have steadily seen wages lowered while workload has increased. Workers have submitted multiple letters to Lunds, SuperValu and Target asking for a unified code of conduct, but none of the retailers has responded.
Before the march, union representatives, student activists and an organizer from the Coalition for Immokalee Workers spoke to the crowd. “When workers and students and people of faith and people from the community unite, the structure of any corporation starts to tremble,” said the CIW organizer. The CIW has recently won a strong code of conduct with tomato growers in Florida, after organizing against withheld wages and abuse of workers.
CTUL would like to see a similar victory for local cleaners. Since 2005, the organization--initially an offshoot of the Workers’ Interfaith Network--has helped low-wage workers gain more than $250,000 in unpaid wages and has worked with over a dozen companies to reverse policies that were in violation of federal labor law. In 2009, CTUL and workers at Hot Stuff foods--a frozen food preparation company with revenues of $130,000,000 heavily staffed by temporary workers--won wage increases, back pay, vacation and a code of conduct to end abuse by managers.
Retailers subcontract their cleaning services, so that the contractors are nominally responsible for wages and working conditions while the company has clean hands. But majors retailers like Target and local giant Lunds have the power to create and enforce minimum wage standards and a code of conduct. This is especially important since a chain may employ multiple cleaning services--workers should not have to negotiate with each service.