KBS Becomes First Retail Janitorial Company in the Twin Cities to Sign Agreement
Target Corporation Sends Clear Message to Other Cleaning Companies to Respect New Responsible Contractor Policy
For over four years, retail janitors have struggled to change a backwards industry rampant with poverty wages, wage theft, dangerous working conditions, lack of benefits, etc. Workers have organized with CTUL, leading marches, strikes and most recently, the 2014 Black Friday Strike for Our Lives.
Target Corporation recently established a new Responsible Contractor Policy regarding the contracted cleaning of Target stores in the Twin Cities metro area. Now, two days before the strike, one of the largest retail janitorial companies in the Twin Cities, Kellermeyer Bergenson’s Services (KBS), signed an agreement that respects the rights of workers to organize, preventing strikes from taking place at stores cleaned directly by the company.
Target Corporation recently established a new Responsible Contractor Policy regarding the contracted cleaning of Target stores in the Twin Cities metro area. According to Bonifacio Salinas, CTUL member and employee of Prestige Maintenance USA who cleans a Target store: “Despite Target’s leadership role in the industry, one of the companies that cleans Target stores in the Twin Cities – Prestige Maintenance USA – has not taken the policy seriously. Many workers are still forced to work seven days a week, and the company has not engaged in sincere dialogue to address issues of poverty wages and poor working conditions. Because of wages and working conditions, janitors who work for contracted companies cleaning Target stores participated in the Black Friday strike.”
Following the KBS agreement and the Black Friday strike, Target Corporation put out a public statement about the contracted cleaning of its stores: “We are very pleased by the progress that some vendors have made and continue to strongly encourage other vendors that haven’t made similar progress to come to the table with SEIU and CTUL and work together in good faith.” In the statement, Target emphasized that “to the extent our vendors fail to do so we will hold them accountable.”
The announcement came during the release of a new report titled “The Future of Work In Minnesota”, published by Working America and TakeAction Minnesota. “This report paints a bleak future for the future of work in Minnesota. Unfortunately the conditions described in the report are all too familiar to those of us who work in retail cleaning – poverty wages, wage theft, unsafe working conditions, and little to no benefits are par for the course in the contracted cleaning of stores in Minnesota. We, together with other low-wage workers across the state of Minnesota, are standing up and demanding a voice in deciding the future of work,” said Maricela Flores, CTUL member and employee of Carlson Building Maintenance who cleans a Target store.
The strike was provoked by wages and working conditions. Janitors who work for companies cleaning major retail chains like Target, Kohl’s, Home Depot, Sears, Festival and other stores face deplorable working conditions, including:
– Sub-poverty wages. Over the past fifteen years, workers complain that wages have dropped several dollars an hour, while cost of living has increased significantly.
– Wage theft. There have been dozens of federal lawsuits and United States Department of Labor investigations over the past ten years uncovering millions of dollars in stolen wages in this industry.
– Unsafe working conditions. Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has found multiple violations exposing over 650 workers to “serious” violations of health and safety standards. According to OSHA, “a serious violation shall be deemed to exist in a place of employment if there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a condition which exists.”
– Lack of benefits. Most retail janitors have little to no benefits, from paid sick leave to paid holidays. In a recent survey with retail janitors, two-thirds of the workers stated that they had to go to work sick within the past year because they would have been punished for not showing up for work.
Over the past four years, retail janitors have organized with CTUL, leading marches, strikes and a 12-Day Hunger Strike. Through organizing, workers have won some important changes in the industry, including the first raises workers have seen after years of declining wages, the Responsible Contractor Policy at Target, and now the KBS agreement.
Regarding the agreement with KBS, a KBS spokesperson stated: “Respect for our workers, honest dealing, and fair treatment are fundamental KBS values and are the cornerstone in delivering excellent service to our customers. Our customers share these values and expect congruent, responsible conduct.”
KBS became the second retail janitorial company in Minnesota to take this step, after AMQ (formerly known as Anisca Floor Maintenance) signed an agreement in June 2013. AMQ cleans stores in Greater Minnesota, but does not currently clean any locations in the Twin Cities metro area.