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Cub Foods security pepper-sprays protesters, shoppers and kids

By Kim DeFranco |
March 17, 2011
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March 17 press conference
March 17 press conference (Fight Back! News/Kim DeFranco)
Signs send message about Cub Foods
Signs send message about Cub Foods
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For further information and to get involved go to: www.ctul.net

Minneapolis, MN - In a packed press conference March 17, retail cleaning workers with the Center of Workers United in Struggle (CTUL, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha) and their allies called upon Cub Foods to put an end to retaliation, violent reactions to peaceful protests and to meet with cleaning workers. The workers are demanding that Cub establish a code of conduct ensuring fair wages and working conditions for all workers who clean their stores.

On March 15, allies of CTUL conducted a non-violent protest at Cub Foods. A security guard reacted with violence, aggression and indiscriminate pepper spraying of protesters, shoppers and even two small children. Several people were assaulted and one woman sent to the hospital as a result of this violent reaction.

Over the years, Cub Foods, along with Lunds and Byerly's food stores, has been undercutting the wages of cleaners by forcing the bids of their cleaning contractors lower and lower. These stores are saying they are saving money. However by going with the cheapest bid, the workers' wages have been dropping, the amount of workers is being cut and working conditions are getting more dangerous. The number of workers is going from four to a team to three or even two to do the same amount of work. Workers are forced to work with hazardous chemicals without protection. Many workers put up with these conditions because they don't want to get fired. Over the past year, CTUL has waged a campaign to bring Cub Foods to the table. They’ve sent petitions and had numerous rallies and press conferences with workers speaking out about their conditions and politicians offering their support. Cub has ignored all of this.

Mario Colloly Torres, a cleaning worker and one of the leaders organizing against Cub, spoke about the conditions at Cub. “Workers have tried to talk with Cub for better wages and working conditions,” hhe said. Torres and others went to the Cub Foods corporate office to present a letter to the CEO and they also filed charges with the United States Department of Labor regarding unpaid wages and signed a letter addressed to their employer demanding an end to reported intimidation and threats against workers organizing. Cub responded by firing Torres. Cub stated they took pictures of Torres ‘sleeping.’ Torres stated, “I was on break. What, Cub now doesn't want workers to take a break that we are entitled to?”

Jesus Castillo, cleaning worker and member of CTUL, spoke, “While working at Lunds, conditions have been getting worse for the workers. Over a year and half ago while working, we had four workers to clean the store. We have to do same amount of work with less people.”

He worked for National Maintenance but was laid off when Lunds hired Carlson Building Maintenance. Carlson told Lunds that they would be able maintain the high quality at a lower price. Castillo stated he knows that would be impossible since they have even fewer workers to do the job. Women have also been sexually harassed by the supervisor and the company is doing nothing about it.

“We did get a raise but only because the federal minimum wage was raised. We all need a raise,” Castillo continued, “Not just for the workers at National Cleaning Company but for all workers.”

Brandon Nessen, from the Spirit of Truth, a faith group, explained the violent encounter at a Cub Foods when peaceful protesters were attacked during a skit.

Torres talked about the next steps, “After all the organizing we and others have done and after our non-violent protests we have done, we have seen the violent side of Cub Foods. We are planning to give Cub Foods a two-month cooling off period. If Cub still refuses to come to the table, CTUL and allies will begin a hunger strike. This doesn't mean, we are doing nothing. This will give us more time to organize. We will be building for more events and bigger actions. We invite anyone to stand with us.”

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