Students back upcoming labor strike

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha is planning a service worker strike for November.

by Melissa Steinken

Local employees of a cleaning service who claim they’re paid as little as $4 to $5 an hour have garnered the support of some University of Minnesota students as their local service workers union plans for a November strike.
Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha is pushing for paid sick days, $15 an hour and fair scheduling, and University students have been leading awareness campaigns across college campuses in the Twin Cities since spring.
“This is wage theft,” said University individualized studies major Alexandra Vagac. “When we’re in school, we talk about how we have a lot of loans and how much debt we are in, but this is something we don’t really think about until we’re out of school.”
Some Minneapolis workers, particularly janitors, are in the middle of a class action lawsuit against Capital Building Services Group, Inc., a cleaning company that provides workers to clean retail stores like Macy’s and Herberger’s in the Twin Cities.
According to a complaint filed in the District Court of Minnesota last spring, Capital Building Services Group, Inc. violated basic employment protections including paying employees as low as $4 to $5 an hour.
Students have been organizing events like open mic nights at the University, Macalester College and Augsburg College to raise awareness, Vagac said. 
Retail workers and organizers have been campaigning at Twin Cities stores to bring attention to the strike, Co-Director Brian Merle Payne said.
CTUL has been pushing for increased wages since 2010, Payne said.
“As long as workers don’t have a voice and don’t feel they are able to complain about working conditions, none of this really matters,” he said.
Payne said CTUL’s efforts have reduced “wage theft” by Capital Building Services.
Target Corporation adopted the Responsible Contractor Policy, which ensures worker’s the rights to form a union, Payne said.
“Other companies just ignored us,” he said. “Workers have been going on strike, and they want union representation, but the company is not respecting their recognition.”
Payne said other companies in Minneapolis have not adopted the policy.
Minneapolis recently delayed implementing ordinances requiring paid sick leave and notifications of scheduling changes for all workers.
“The working families and their call for fair scheduling and wages are really crucial,” Vagac said. “There are low-wage workers and business owners at odds with another right now in Minneapolis.”
CTUL members are planning to strike outside a McDonald’s in Northeast Minneapolis and march to Macy’s in downtown Minneapolis on Nov. 10.