Wall of Shame

 WALL OF SHAME

NEW: A Dirty Business: Worker Exploitation in Minnesota’s Retail Janitorial Industry.”

“This study sheds light on the reality faced by thousands of retail cleaning workers around the country as well as here in the Twin Cities, citing multiple examples of federal lawsuits and United States Department of Labor investigations that have happened in the industry regarding unpaid overtime wages, all taking place over the past decade. It is shocking to learn that such conditions exist in the shadow of stores like Kmart and Sears,” said Stephen Phillon, Associate Professor of Sociology, St. Cloud State University.  Click here for a copy of the report.

Let’s look at some examples of what has actually been happening in retail cleaning locally and nationally:

1.  In July 2010 a slavery ring was uncovered in retail cleaning in the Northeast, involving workers who cleaned at Target, Kmart, Wal-Mart, Safeway and other locations.

2.  In a settlement reached in federal court in Maryland in 2009, Prestige Maintenance, which employed workers who cleaned Target stores, was to compensate workers up to $3.8 million for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

3. In 2008, retail cleaning workers in Texas were leading a lawsuit against Jim’s Maintenance Services and Target as a joint employer, seeking up at $1.5 million in damages and unpaid wages.

  • Target Target: Janitors win a legal victory,” The Austin Chronicle, February 29, 2008.  “For anyone who has ever set foot in a Target store and experienced the hospital-like sterility that lies within, it’s apparent that the Target Corp. is keen on clean…Just how Target achieves its trademark cleanliness can be quite a dirty business, according to former janitors from Austin and San Antonio, who are suing the company for unpaid wages and overtime.”

4.  In 2004, retail cleaning workers working for Global Building Services cleaning Target stores won a lawsuit for $1.9 million for unpaid overtime wages.

  • Labor Department Wins $1.9 Million in Back Pay for Janitors,” New York Times, August 26, 2004.  “Mr. Aguilar said that he worked about 80 hours a week, from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily, and was paid $525 or $625 every 15 days. That came to less than $4 an hour, well below the federal minimum wage of $5.15.”

5.  Between 2004-2005, there were at least 3 significant investigations by the United States Department of Labor about labor practices at National Floor Maintenance, one of the companies that cleans Lunds & Byerly stores.  The USDOL found over 800 violations of failure to pay proper overtime, totaling over $250,000 in compensation for workers.

  • National Maintenance 2004.  September 2004, Houson District Office of the USDOL found 198 violations of failure to pay minimum wage and failure to pay proper overtime, for $68,562.07 owed in back wages.  Click on the link to see the PDF file.
  • National Maintenance II 2004.  September 2004, Denver Office of the USDOL found 348 violations of failure to pay proper overtime, for $113,415.03 owed in back wages.  Click on the link to see the PDF file.
  • National Maintenance 2005.  Denver District Office of the USDOL found 281 violations of failure to pay proper overtime and failure to keep accurate records, for $75,342.21 owed in back wages.  Click on the link to see the PDF file.

6.  Between 2001-2006, there were at least 3 significant investigations by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) about labor practices at Prestige Maintenance, a company that cleaned Target stores.  The USDOL found over 300 violations of failure to pay proper overtime, totaling over $180,000 in compensation for workers.

  • Prestige Maintenance 2001 and 2004.  December 2001, 286 violations found of failure to pay proper overtime and failure to keep accurate records, for $136,460.53 owed in back wages.
  • Prestige Maintenance 2001 and 2004.  April 2004, 122 violations found of failure to pay proper overtime and failure to keep accurate records, for $44,808 owed in back wages.
  • Prestige Maintenance 2006.  June 2006, 3 violations found for failure to pay proper overtime, for $7,034.42 owed in back wages.
  • All of this is in addition to the lawsuit mentioned previously for up to $3.8 million compensation for workers.

7.  In 2007 the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) carried out an investigation against Paquette Maintenance for failure to pay proper overtime to workers based in Minnesota.  Paquette Maintenance cleaned Lunds Food Holdings, Goodwill, Menard’s and other retail chains at the time.  The USDOL found 106 violations totaling over $25,000 in unpaid wages.  According to the USDOL investigator, it appeared that the company deliberately delayed responding to the investigation to be able to declare bankruptcy and not pay workers (Paquette Maintenance):

  • “In hindsight, it is clear that the many delays…was all part of the strategy to make sure the Back Wages were made part of the numerous claims listed in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.”
  • “It became clear that these were stalling tactics in March of 2008, when the WHI discovered that the Employer had filed for bankruptcy.  Instead of improving as a result of the Wage/Hour investigations, pay practices became considerably worse: all paychecks for some 116 employees bounced in January ’08, and then again in February of 2009.”