21 Aug 2014
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Twin Cities Retail Cleaning Workers Group Threatening Strike

The contract cleaning workers perform services at big-box retailers including more than a dozen Target stores in the Twin Cities area.

Twin Cities Retail Cleaning Workers Group Threatening Strike

Retail cleaning workers who serve Target and other stores in the Twin Cities have vowed to walk off their jobs as early as this Sunday if their employers continue to refuse to open discussions with them and the Centro de Trabajodores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), according to the workers' group.

The CTUL said it is a Minneapolis workers center that has been organizing the workers for more than two years.

In a press statement, the group said it has set a its strike deadline for noon Feb. 24 for retail cleaning contactors like Diversified Maintenance Systems, Carlson Building Maintenance, and Eurest Services. The workers group, which claims to represent at least 400 cleaners, said it wants to start discussions with the employer groups, which perform cleaning services for a variety of retailers,  about the right to organize without fear of retaliation.

If by Sunday, the cleaning companies reject the workers's request for talks, they have vowed to begin an "unfair labor practice" (ULP) strike, which could start at any time following the noon deadline. The union claims some of the contract companies have been retaliating against workers for exercising their organizing rights.

If such a work stoppage occurs, the CTUL said that could be the first-known strike of retail cleaning workers affecting Target stores in that discounter's history. 

Veronica Mendez, a spokesperson with the CTUL, said that more than a dozen Target stores in the Twin Cities could be affected by a possible workers' work stoppage. She said the retail cleaners work at Target stores in these communities, among others: Minnetonka, Edina, St. Louis Park, Eden Prairie, Shakopee, Lakeville, Eagan, Apple Valley-Rosemount, Inver Grove Heights, Stillwater, Oakdale, Fridley, Woodbury, Burnsville and Roseville. 

In the press statement from the workers group, members said they want better working conditions, wages and the right to organize. 

The CTUL has gained press in the last year for its efforts on behalf of retail cleaning workers. The group noted that a recent class action settlement was reached between retail cleaning workers and Diversified Maintenance systems for $675,000 in damages. The suit alleged the contractor forced workers to work up to 80 hours a week without receiving full overtime pay while cleaning Target and other stores.

Meanwhile, 25 janitors who clean Target stores in the Twin Cities metro area also filed charges just two weeks ago with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) alleging that workers were locked in stores overnight and/or did not receive proper safety training.

Diversified Maintenance Systems is Target’s largest cleaning contractor, with contracts to clean more than 600 Target stores nationwide, the CTUL said 

The CTUL's threatened strike comes at the same time that another group of workers, office building janitors and security officers, have given their union,  Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26, the power to call work stoppages if contract talks remain stalled. That union now has called a strike and said its members may walk off their jobs as early as next Monday. 

The workers strike authorization vote came on Feb. 9. The union represents a combined more than 6,000 workers across the Twin Cities metro area. To see the full report, click on to this Patch report.

Patch will update this story as developments occur. 

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