On Tuesday morning custodial workers, fast food employees and supporters picketed Macy’s on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis and the Best Buy Headquarters in Richfield. Workers from over 50 Twin Cities stores were on a one-day strike for better wages and conditions against employers like Capital Building Services Group that provide cleaning services for large retail corporations like Macy’s.
Workers and organizers said the actions were also timed to call attention to a class action lawsuit filed against Capital by eight janitors who clean Macy's and Herberger's. The suit alleges "systematic and severe" wage and hour law violations by the company.
A report issued Tuesday by SEIU Minnesota State Council suggests some workers in the suit were paid "as little as $4 or $5 an hour," while others were not paid for overtime or the actual hours they worked. Held Up Without a Gun: Wage Theft in Minnesota's Janitorial Industry, documents wage theft by seven cleaning contractors currently operating in the Twin Cities metro area.
Tuesday's actions were organized by CTUL, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha/Center of Workers United in Struggle, an organization of low wage workers that has been fighting for better conditions in the cleaning and fast food industry for eight years.
“We are out here so workers can be heard,” said Veronica Mendez Moore, a co-founder of CTUL. “Our ultimate goal is to change the industry, and we’ve been in contact with local legislators to do so.”
Merle Payne, another co-founder of CTUL, helped organize the protest. “We want to build power for workers in the workplace and at the legislature. People talk about democracy, but then they don’t want to hear from everyone.”
Abraham Quevedo, a member of CTUL since 2006, participated in the protest. He used to be a manager for Capital Building Services Group but quit due to too many problems with upper management. He now works for another cleaning company.
Prior to the picketing on Tuesday, Quevedo received a text message from his manager asking if he was planning to come to work. He responded with a simple, “nope”, and never got a response in return.
“It is important to show other minimum wage workers not to be afraid of standing up for what is right,” said Quevedo, “so I am not at work!”
This is not the first strike by members of CTUL.There were so many in 2013 that they call it "The Year of the Strike’. Those actions eventually led to a historic agreement with Target Corporation about standards for contractors cleaning their stores. The serious issue of wage theft and continued bad conditions in the industry have gotten them in the streets again.