These were the chants of Lunds and Byerly’s workers. A message to Lund’s that translates to: “Lunds, listen, we are in the struggle.”
Last week in Edina, 30 CTUL workers and allies gathered at Lunds Headquarters, 4100 West 50th Street, to address the company regarding workers concerns to clean stores. After marching in front of the headquarters, they marched across the street to the Lunds grocery store.
While the protestors were outside, National Floor Maintenance worker Eduardo Davalos and CTUL (Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha) organizer Brian Payne, met with Lunds representatives inside their office to discuss workers’ concerns in addition to providing a letter. The concerns and demands included that Lunds address serious problems that occur during the cleaning of their stores; regarding reported sexual harassment by a National Floor Maintenance supervisor, the recent abrupt firing of about 12 cleaning workers, and the human rights violations that retail cleaning workers face every day on the job.
“You guys have been advised of this and have not taking any action,” Payne said. “Lunds will be held accountable for this and this will end up reflecting badly on your store,” he said.
The Human Resources representative of Lunds Food Holding Inc put strong emphasis on remaining anonymous and would not give her name. She repeatedly kept telling Payne and Davalos to “take it up with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”
Additionally, she stated that in October of 2010, Lunds began a bidding process with cleaning companies and chose the one who gave them the most competitive bid. This was why they switched four of their store’s contractors from National Floor Maintenance, to Carlson Building Maintenance (Carlson). As a result, about 12 National Floor Maintenance workers lost their jobs with absolutely no notice on Sunday night.
Mario Colloly Torres, a Carlson worker at Cub Foods and CTUL member, explained the changes in salary made in wages to the workers to cut costs.
“In the last ten years, wages at Carlson have dropped from about $10-$11 an hour to about $7.50 an hour and the workload has nearly doubled. Unfortunately, this is the industry standard in retail cleaning,” he said.
Anallely Vivar Chiman also a CTUL member has worked with National Floor Maintenance for four years. According to her, Lunds repeatedly denies responsibility for what happened to the workers
“Lunds keeps saying they are not responsible for what happens to us, but these firings and human rights violations are the concrete result of them constantly pitting cleaning companies against each other for the lowest possible bid. We are always the ones who suffer from their decisions,” she said. “They are responsible for 12 workers not being able to put food on the table. They refuse to address the issues of reported sexual harassment, and now I’m scared to go to work on the nights when I work alone with my supervisor. What if he did something to me? Or Lunds workers? Or a customer?”
Furthermore, she said, this is another ignored attempt at communication from National Floor Maintenance.
“I cannot understand why Lunds is saying they have nothing to do with us. They need to pay attention to us and hear our voices,” said Chiman. “We are the ones who clean their stores and make them look good, they need to hear our voices,” she said.
Albuerto-Havanna has worked for five years cleaning Lunds and Byerly’s stores as a National Maintenance employee.
“They are trying to wash their hands of the situation by bringing in another cleaning company. They notified us three hours before that we no longer had a job. That is unjust,” he said.
While Lunds and other retail chains continue to turn a blind eye to the human rights violations happening in the cleaning of their stores, workers are ready to continue the struggle until they achieve a Code of Conduct with major retail stores including Lunds, Target and Cub Foods ensuring fair wages, working conditions and a voice on the job for all workers who clean their stores.
“They pride themselves on serving their community. We want them to recognize that these abrupt firings impact the same communities they claim to serve,” Havanna said.
“We are asking to be treated with dignity, respect and like human beings,” Havanna said.