Retail janitors who are sub-contracted to clean Best Buy, Macys, Lund’s, Target and other stores in the Twin Cities metro announced Wednesday they finalized a first contract with their employers as members of Service Employees International Union Local 26.
The workers engaged in a multi-year fight that saw them go on multiple 24-hour strikes to organize the first industry-wide union of big box janitors in a major metropolitan area. Their organizing began through a Minneapolis-based worker center, CTUL, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha/Center of Workers United in Struggle.
Gains include more than $4.5 million in wage increases and paid time off over the life of the contract for the nearly 500 workers covered by bargaining, the union said. Retail janitors will see an average wage increase of 18 percent over 3 years, with many janitors seeing an immediate $1.50 raise.
The vast majority of the group are people of color.
“The gains won in this contract are the private sector stimulus that Trump and his billionaire cabinet promised, but workers delivered on for themselves,” the union noted in news release.
“We fought hard to get to this point, so it means so much to have won this first contract,” said Maricela Flores, a grandmother who works for Carlson Building Maintenance at the Shakopee Target and participant in the bargaining sessions.
“While working people are under attack right now from the billionaires in charge of our country, we are showing that we can win if we stick together and fight … Because we stood up and fought, and didn’t let anyone tell us we couldn’t win, we now have a contract that won big gains for our families.”
Lizbet Vega Lopez, who has been employed by Carlson to clean the Cub Foods in Brooklyn Park for 12 years, is one of the many workers seeing an immediate raise from $9.50 to $11 per hour.
“This was not an easy fight, but I am so glad we stuck together and now have a union contract that moves us forward. I hope others will see our fight and realize that no matter how difficult the challenge may be, you can win positive changes if you are willing to stand up to those in power,” said Lopez, a mother of three.
In addition to wage increases and PTO, workers also won one to three weeks vacation, depending on experience; stronger workplace protections and job security; and guidelines for workload conditions when covering absences. The contract goes into effect immediately and will last three years.