September 29 action

September 29th Action – Report

Workers announce that ongoing lawsuit against Diversified Maintenance regarding allegations of unpaid overtime wages received conditional class action status

“Since the company has refused to meet with us we have had no choice but to take these issues to public agencies, into the courts, and into the streets. We will not stop until they meet and agree to fair wages and working conditions!” Blanca Jimenez, Diversified cleaning worker and member of CTUL

“We want to say to those at Diversified, it is time to pay a fair wage! We are going to do everything we can at the Minneapolis City Council and at the Capitol to get fair wages and working conditions. That is my solemn promise,” State Senator Jeff Hayden, standing with Mpls City Council Representatives Betsy Hodges and Elizabeth Glidden.

State Senator Jefrey Hayden

On Saturday, September 29th, cleaning workers with CTUL felt an overwhelming outpour of community support as over 250 workers and allies joined a “sea of red” demanding fair pay from Diversified Maintenance Systems, a company that cleans K-Mart, Sears and other stores in the Twin Cities metro area.

Among the crowd that day, we were joined by State Senator Jeffrey Hayden and Minneapolis City Council Members Elizabeth Glidden and Betsy Hodges, who expressed their unwavering support to stand with Diversified employees in their struggle for fair wages and working conditions. 

Mpls City Council Representatives Betsy Hodges and Elizabeth Glidden

People were shocked to learn that on August 30, 2012, an agreement was reached in a United States District Court in Minnesota to allow for conditional certification of an ongoing lawsuit against Diversified Maintenance as a class action lawsuit, potentially opening the case to include Diversified employees who clean K-Mart, Sears and other stores throughout the Midwest.

The original case was filed in October 2011 by a dozen workers in Minnesota against Diversified Maintenance charging that the company “consistently required the Plaintiffs to record their overtime hours under the name of a ghost employee”, leading to excessive overtime hours without overtime pay. The lawsuit alleges that at least one person worked approximately 80-90 hours per week, while others worked 56-60 hours per week with no overtime pay and daily breaks were not provided.

Unfortunately, while people should be shocked to hear such stories, given the company’s history it appears that such alleged violations of workers’ rights are not actually that unusual. Over the past six years, Diversified Maintenance has been involved in at least six lawsuits and one U.S. Department of Labor investigation alleging unpaid overtime wages (See “A Dirty Business: Worker Exploitation in Minnesota’s Retail Janitorial Industry“). In addition, in July 2012, 17 Diversified Maintenance employees filed charges with OSHA regarding allegations of unsafe working conditions including being locked in stores overnight while they worked, and citations have now been sent to the company for correction.

Following the action, folks joined the “Out of the Shadows” Gathering, participating in discussions about organizing happening around the country. Interestingly, many people who flew in from around the country committed to seeking out Diversified employees in their communities to see if similar conditions exist in their communities.

We hope to have a report and pictures from the gathering soon…in the meantime, see below for more pictures from the action.

CTUL member Florencio Campos leading some chants
Getting ready to start the march
Debby Pope from the Chicago Teachers Union
Minneapolis City Council Representatives Elizabeth Glidden and Betsy Hodges with CTUL members
CTUL member Ignacia Ambriz addressing the crowd
Picket against Diversified Maintenance
Pastor Patrick Cabello Hansel from St. Paul Lutheran
MIRAc on the picket line
Centro Campesino came out in force!
Marching towards the picket line
AFSCME Local 3800 in solidarity with CTUL
Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Student Farmworker Alliance on the picket line

Click here for even more pictures

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