Janitors at Target stores in Minneapolis, the site of the company’s international headquarters, will strike on Monday night in response to alleged workplace retaliation and intimidation on the part of their employers. The strike will only last one night, and one of the organizers working with the janitors said that it was not yet tied to a long-term strategy.
“Right now, the workers are focusing on that, and we want to see what kind of reaction comes from the companies,” said Brian Payne, an organizer for Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha, the organization working with the non-union strikers.
The janitors work for three different maintenance companies which are contracted to service Target stores in the Minneapolis area. Last week, the janitors threatened a strike if representatives from the companies did not meet with them for negotiations by Sunday at noon. Payne confirmed to MSNBC that the CTUL had received no response from the employers.
CTUL has filed two Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the Target maintenance contractors. One alleges that two janitors were illegally terminated for trying to organize their co-workers, while the other says that a third worker was threatened with termination if he continued to agitate for unionization. (As of press time, none of the maintenance companies were available for comment.)
The CTUL strike is the latest in a series of short-term, disciplinary strikes from low-wage workers across the country. In a November interview with MSNBC, Columbia professor Liza Featherstone compared recent labor actions at Walmart with the low-level, decentralized, disciplinary strikes of the Gilded Age.
CTUL is partnered with a coalition called Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, and pickets during the janitors’ strike will be just one part of the latter group’s “February Week of Action.” Payne said CTUL expected to have up to 500 people rallying for the striking janitors, including State Senator Patricia Torres Ray and City Council Representative Elizabeth Glidden, both Democrats. Payne described the breadth of community support as “pretty overwhelming.”
Striking CTUL janitors will also picket alongside security guards represented by SEIU Local 26, who are planning their own one-day strike against security companies which are contracted with Target and Wells Fargo, among other companies. SEIU Local 26 also represents janitors at the Target headquarters, who recently narrowly averted a planned strike after reaching a tentative contract with their employers.