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Cub Foods under fire for firing of cleaning worker

By Brad Sigal |
March 7, 2011
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Cleaning workers protest firing of organizer inside Cub Foods store
Cleaning workers protest firing of organizer Mario Colloly Torres inside Cub Foods store (Photo courtesy of CTUL)

Minneapolis, MN – On March 2, Mario Colloly Torres was fired from his retail cleaning job at Cub Foods. Torres is a leader in the campaign for justice for retail cleaning workers. The campaign is organized by the Center for Workers United in Struggle or Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) in Spanish. CTUL is organizing low paid, mostly immigrant workers at major retail stores such as Cub, Lunds & Byerly's, Target, and Supervalu to fight for better wages, working conditions, and the right to organize.

While Torres works cleaning Cub Foods stores, a subcontractor, Carlson Building Maintenance, technically employs him. This is the case across the retail cleaning industry. The big retail stores contract out their cleaning to a series of subcontractors that constantly underbid each other to drive down wages and working conditions. Ten years ago in retail cleaning, workers made around $10 an hour. Today the average is $7.50 an hour. During the same period the average workload also doubled. It is a race to the bottom for workers.

After Mario's firing on March 2, CTUL immediately launched a campaign to fight back against the firing and to push forward the campaign. Mario responded to his firing saying, "They think that firing me will stop us from organizing. Instead, it will only make us fight harder! We will continue the struggle until we win fair wages, working conditions and the right to organize without fear of retaliation."

On March 4, CTUL filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board stating that Carlson Building Maintenance along with Cub Foods fired Mario for organizing for better wages and working conditions.

CTUL also initiated a series of protest actions to confront executives of Carlson Building Maintenance and Cub Foods directly. According to a report by CTUL, 30 workers and supporters went to Carlson headquarters in White Bear Lake to speak with company president Nick Giese. Mario explained what had happened, and asked Mr. Giese to clarify if his firing was the company’s decision, or if it was the decision of a rogue supervisor. Mr. Giese chose not to have dialogue with Mario, and instead had one of his employees call the police. The workers then left there and went to a nearby Cub Foods store and marched together into the store, passed out flyers to customers who were curious about what was happening, delivered a letter to the manager, led a raucous round of chants, and left to plan next steps.

The next step is a series of protests this week to protest Mario's firing. CTUL is calling on people to support Mario and all retail-cleaning workers at the following actions. For each action, meet at CTUL at 2511 E. Franklin Ave. (inside of Bethany Lutheran Church) to go together to the protest site:

  • Monday, March 7 - 6 pm – 8 pm
  • Wednesday, March 9 - 11 am
  • Thursday, March 10 - 6 pm
  • Friday, March 11 - 5 pm
  • Tuesday, March 15 - 10 am

The goal of the Campaign for Justice in Retail Cleaning is to demand that all the employers across the industry agree to a code of conduct for workers that clean their stores. Workers want guarantees on fair wages and working conditions, and the right to organize without fear of retaliation. The campaign began by targeting Cub Foods, whose workers face many of the worst conditions in the industry. CTUL is calling on Cub Foods to lead the way in the industry by agreeing to the code of conduct.

For more information on CTUL's retail cleaning workers campaign, visit www.ctul.net.