Cleaning workers and allies gathered Thursday to call on Cub Foods to end retaliation and violent reactions to peaceful protests and to meet with cleaning workers to establish a code of conduct.
The proposed code would ensure fair wages and working conditions for workers who clean Cub stores. View video of the news conference.
Over the past year, CTUL, the Center of Workers United in Struggle, has sought dialogue with Cub Foods only to be ignored, organizers said. Now, instead of dialogue, a worker leader in the campaign is fired and allies are assaulted and pepper sprayed as they peacefully protest at a Cub Foods store.
Over the past two weeks, CTUL and allies have conducted several protests regarding the firing of Mario Colloly Torres, worker leader and ex-cleaning worker at Cub Foods. Charges were filed with the National Labor Relations Board stating that Cub Foods and the contracted cleaning company fired Mario for organizing his co-workers to fight for better wages and working conditions. At the latest protest, organized by allies of CTUL, peaceful protesters were met with violence by the security guard at Cub Foods.
Kristen Melby, an activist who was sent to the hospital after being pepper sprayed in the eyes at Tuesday’s protest said, “The reaction to our peaceful protest at Cub Foods was completely uncalled for. They assaulted several people, blocked us from leaving and sprayed protesters and clients alike with pepper spray. Some clients later told us that their two children had been sprayed.”
Workers named these two extreme incidents as mere examples of how backward industry has become, demonstrating the need for Cub Foods to play a leadership role in ending these abuses. CTUL declared that if Cub Foods continues to refuse dialogue, workers will organize a hunger strike starting May 20.
“We did not make this decision lightly. In the last two days the violence has become blatant, but the violence that we suffer every day facing miserable wages, extreme workloads and humiliation on the job have gone on hidden too long. It is hypocritical that these grocery stores that give so much money to food shelves, ignore the fact that we, who clean their stores, are the very people that have to wait in line for that food. Through this hunger strike we will bring this violence to public light,” said Jesus Castillo, cleaning worker and member of CTUL.