Retail cleaning workers protested outside a Lunds grocery store in Edina Tuesday, calling on the company to take responsibility for its decision to switch cleaning contractors at four Twin Cities locations – a decision that cost 12 workers their jobs. Before the protest, leaders of a metro-area campaign to improve conditions for retail cleaning workers approached Lunds management to discuss the abrupt layoffs. At work Sunday night, the 12 workers were told it would be their last day on the job.
Management, however, met the workers’ concerns with indifference, according to Brian Payne, an organizer with “Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha” (CTUL), which means “Center of Workers United in Struggle.”
“They told us they could not do anything because (the workers) were not employees of Lunds & Byerly’s, they were employees of National Maintenance,” Payne said. “They told us they have nothing to do with this.”
Lunds & Byerly’s replaced National Floor Maintenance with a different cleaning contractor, Carlson Building Maintenance, at four of its stores.
|Workers protested the change in cleaning contractors at the Lunds store in Edina. Union Advocate photo|
For several months, according to CTUL organizers, cleaning workers had been requesting Lunds & Byerly’s investigate allegations of sexual harassment by a National Maintenance manager.
Alberto Jimenez Javana, a CTUL member and National employee, said he feared Lunds made the change as a way of dealing with worker complaints.
“We don’t want Lunds to think they can just wash their hands of problems by changing to another cleaning company,” Javana said. “They need to think about the community that they are affecting.”
Javana, who has been cleaning Lunds stores for five years, kept his job, but he and other workers were upset by how quickly their friends and co-workers – some of whom had worked nine years for the company – were let go.
“In the middle of their shift, they told people, ‘You don’t have a job anymore, go look for a job somewhere else,'” Javana said. “There was no warning.
“I know even though this isn’t happening to me now, who knows what day they could decide to do the same thing, and I’ll be the one out of a job?
For more information on CTUL and its campaign for justice in retail cleaning, go to www.ctul.net.
Michael Moore edits The Union Advocate, the official publication of the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation. Learn more at www.stpaulunions.org