MINNEAPOLIS, June 10, 2014 – After four years of organizing by Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), Target Corporation is adopting a breakthrough policy that will be implemented with new cleaning contractors, and will protect the rights of sub-contracted janitors who clean retail stores in the Twin Cities metro area.
CTUL has partnered with the janitors – who have faced poverty wages, wage theft, and health and safety hazards – in three strikes against cleaning companies, as well as a year of dialogue with Target Corporation. Now Target is taking a leadership role in the industry by adopting an unprecedented Responsible Contractor Policy that will be implemented with new cleaning contracts at their stores, providing significant protections for workers’ rights.
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“For years, retail janitorial work has been pushed further and further into the margins of the economy. It’s an industry plagued by wage theft, unsafe working conditions, sub-poverty wages work overload and more. This policy is a first step towards changing that reality,” states Veronica Mendez, Co-Director of CTUL. “This is the first of policy of its kind in the retail janitorial industry. It’s a victory not just for the estimated 1,000 retail janitors in the Twin Cities, but for all the low-wage workers of color fighting for a place at the table in deciding the future of work.”
Language in the Responsible Contractor Policy includes many key elements to protect workers’ rights, including:
1. Protecting and ensuring workers’ rights to collectively bargain with their employers;
2. Ensuring that workers have the right to form safety committees in the workplace made up of at least 50% workers who are designated by their co-workers; and
3. Ensuring that workers are not forced to work seven days a week.
For Enrique Barcenas, CTUL member and an employee of Prestige Maintenance USA who cleans a Target store, organizing has been motivated by a need for higher wages and dignity in the workplace.
“Every evening we are surrounded by a wealth of food and goods, yet we can’t afford to provide for basic needs for our own families. We have stood up through marches, a 12-day hunger strike, and three strikes demanding fair wages and the right to organize without fear of retaliation,” Enrique said. “Now we have won a path to gain respect in our workplaces.”
The announcement follows a Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) report showing that Minnesotans who live in areas with the highest median household income live an average of eight years longer than those who live in areas with the lowest median household income. MDH concluded that “the growing economic inequities and the persistence of health disparities in our great state are a matter of life and death for many.”
“For too long, retail janitorial companies have been stealing years off of our lives and off of the lives of our children by paying poverty wages, and in some cases not paying workers their full wages,” said Maricela Flores, employee of Carlson Building Maintenance who cleans a Target store. “This new policy opens the door to a different world – one where our voices will be respected, and where we can negotiate for fair wages and working conditions.”
In a letter written to CTUL regarding the policy, Jodee Kozlak, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer of Target Corporation writes, “As Target enters into new service agreements with Twin Cities housekeeping service providers over the next few months, the company will include additional language in those contracts aimed at promoting positive and productive dialogue between Target vendors and their workers.”
Several community leaders released statements regarding the new Responsible Contractor Policy:
- U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison: “Today congratulations are due to both CTUL and Target. I applaud Target’s decision to lead the retail industry in responsible sub-contracting practices. I also congratulate CTUL and the workers for having the courage to raise their voices. Today’s victory is a direct result of Minnesotans standing together for better treatment on the job. This policy will give workers a greater voice in achieving the fair pay and health benefits these hard working families deserve.In the last year, we’ve seen workers all over the country organize around the principle that no one working full time in America should live in poverty. I hope other retailers follow Target’s lead and move the industry towards higher wages and better benefits for working Americans.”
- Janice Fine, Associate Professor, Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations: “The dirty little secret of 21st century big box retail is that behind so many of our favorite stores—including Target—there is a complex supply chain of labor exploitation. Workers at the bottom of the chain work for subcontractors who routinely engage in wage theft, forced overtime, dangerous health and safety conditions, sexual harassment and discrimination and interfere with the right to organize, but it is not easy for workers to organize successfully to raise standards unless they are able to reach and persuade the top of the chain to act. This is why CTUL’s landmark victory with Target to accept responsibility for its subcontractors by adopting a Responsible Contractor Policy for all new cleaning contracts in their stores, is a groundbreaking advance.”
- Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges: “Congratulations to the workers who remind us all that when we boldly come together throughout grassroots action, we can move mountains. I also want to extend my congratulations to Target for demonstrating that good corporate citizenship means engaging with the community and valuing its workers. This victory is a reminder that we all have a stake in the success of the entire community.”
Alora DePlacito, CTUL member and employee of Eurest Services who cleans a Kohl’s store, said: “Target instituting this policy is a crucial first step to paving the way for smaller Minnesota retailers to implement similar agreements. We thank Target for playing a leadership role. Now we are calling on Kohl’s, Sears, Michaels and other major retail stores to follow Target’s leadership.”
Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL) is a low-wage worker led organization based in the Twin Cities that is organizing for fair wages, fair working conditions, and a voice in the workplace for all workers.