(Video: Centro de Trabadores Unidos en Lucha)
Non-union janitors who clean Target stores in Minnesota say they’ll go on strike unless their employers agree by noon on Sunday to meet and discuss alleged crimes.
The workers are employed by three janitorial contractors—Prestige Maintenance USA, Diversified Maintenance Systems and Carlson Building Maintenance—and work inside Target facilities in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The strike threat follows a series of OSHA charges alleging that employees of those companies were denied proper safety training and locked inside of Target stores, and National Labor Relations Board charges alleging that they were retaliated against for organizing. The charges and the strike threat were spearheaded by the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), a Twin Cities labor group that, as The Nation reported, has been organizing retail cleaning workers for two years.
“I guess I’d say I’m not scared,” Diversified employee and CTUL activist Alejandro Quirino told The Nation (in Spanish). “Because I’m fed up and sick and tired of how they’ve treated us, and how our demands have been ignored. And that’s why I’m going to go on strike. If I get fired, I know I was fighting for what’s right, and putting in what I could to fight for what’s fair.”
CTUL is demanding that contractors meet to discuss the alleged safety and labor law violations, which it says include the firing of two workers less than a week after one of them had appeared in a campaign video. “Management told one of my co-workers that if a worker tries to strike or organize with their co-workers, they’ll be fired,” said Quirino.
CTUL’s deadline is the same day as the strike deadline set by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members who clean commercial offices in the Twin Cities, including Target’s headquarters. CTUL and SEIU have been collaborating in recent months and hope to eventually win formal union recognition and collective bargaining for CTUL members (the workers would become members of SEIU, while remaining members of CTUL, one of the country’s hundreds of alternative labor groups). That means the unionized commercial building janitors and their non-union retail counterparts could soon be on strike together.
CTUL organizer Veronica Mendez said Wednesday that the decision to prepare for a strike emerged in meetings among workers last weekend. She declined to estimate how many of the roughly 150 contracted cleaning workers at Twin Cities Target stores would strike, but said “we’ve got a core group of really strong leaders” mobilizing their co-workers. “More than likely,” said Mendez, “workers will be going on strike on Tuesday.”