2011: A Year of Hope

2011: A Year of Hope in Retail Cleaning

“I’ve worked at many cleaning companies over the years and I’ve always found miserable wages and working conditions. I’m tired of changing companies; I have decided to change the company where I work,” Lucila Dominguez, member of CTUL.

Last year we posted a reflection on 2010 as a year of struggle – 2010 marked both the beginning of a worker-led movement for justice in retail cleaning, and another year of exploitation in in the industry.

Members of CTUL are calling 2011 a “Year of Hope” – a year in which workers recovered tens of thousands of dollars unpaid wages, gained the first wage increase many workers have seen in the industry in many years, laid out a path to guarantee fair wages and working conditions in retail cleaning, and won the 2011 Progressive Leadership Award from Take Action.

Here are some of the highlights of 2011:

CTUL Receives the 2011 Progressive Leadership Award from Take Action

Members of CTUL with Governor Mark Dayton and Minnesota State Representative Patricia Torres-Ray

November 18, 2011 CTUL received the Progressive Leadership Award at Take Action’s 2011 Annual Leadership Awards Celebration.  We are grateful to Take Action for the recognition of the risks that hundreds of retail cleaning workers have taken over the past two years, organizing for workplace justice.  Mario Colloly Torres, a former retail cleaning worker and member of CTUL, received the award on behalf of the organization, explaining: “In life, we have to learn to take risks…because taking risks helps us find the right path to follow.”  

Wage Theft Campaign

During 2011, workers led campaigns to recover over $50,000 in unpaid wages and damages, bringing the total to over $550,000 that workers have recovered over the past four years. Additionally, workers gained long-term changes (including raises and pressuring companies into compliance with federal and state law) at 5 companies, ensuring improvements for nearly 450 low-wage workers; this brings the total to 20 companies where workers have won long-term changes, ensuring improvements for more than 1,600 low-wage workers.  Example of a victory: Lucila Dominguez worked as a janitor cleaning apartment buildings for several years without receiving a pay raise.  She complained about poverty wages, late payment of paychecks, hours being shaved off her paychecks, and lack of cleaning supplies.  After partnering with CTUL, she was able to bring in Green Dreams Cleaning, a cleaning cooperative based in the Twin Cities.  Now Lucila is part owner of the cleaning company where she works ensuring a voice in the workplace, and she received a $1 pay increase.

Campaign for Justice in Retail Cleaning

Last year marked the first changes in the industry, pressuring three companies into changing corporate policies that were in direct violation of federal and state labor laws.  This year, workers from across the industry report significant pay increases, the first pay increase that many workers have seen in the time that they have worked in the industry, effectively ending over 10 years of declining wages!  Workers continue organizing to both broaden and deepen these victories to ensure fair wages, fair working conditions and a voice in the workplace for all retail cleaning workers in the Twin Cities.

La Voz del Pueblo en KFAI

CTUL partnered with Mujeres en Liderazgo to host a weekly radio program on KFAI – “La Voz del Pueblo”.  Many members of CTUL have participated in the program, discussing issues that impact the Latino immigrant population in the Twin Cities.  Tune into the program every Sunday from 12-1pm on KFAI, 90.3FM in Mpls, and 106.7FM in St. Paul.

Join the struggle for fair wages and working conditions for all workers by donating to CTUL.  And make sure to stay up to date on the campaign through facebook (http://www.facebook.com/CTULucha) and twitter (@CTUL_TC).