A battle for higher paychecks

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February 27, 2014
By: Sarah McKenzie
Submitted photo
Sarah McKenzie
Series of protests at downtown Target spotlight movement for higher minimum wage

Janitors who clean Target stores have launched a series of protests in recent weeks at the retailer’s flagship Nicollet Mall store to call for higher wages.

Workers and their supporters marched through the skyways Wednesday from the Hennepin County Government Center to the store at 9th & Nicollet to draw attention to the fight for an increase in the state’s minimum wage.

A group of retail cleaners affiliated with Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL) have held “Fair Wage Wednesday” events at the downtown Target for the past several weeks to spotlight their cause. They have called on Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel to take a minimum wage challenge for a week to experience life on the low end of the pay scale. A spokeswoman for Target did not respond to an email asking whether he planned to participate in the challenge.

Mayor Betsy Hodges, an ally of CTUL, bumped into the workers as she was walking to City Hall. Earlier this year she met with a group of low-wage workers with City Council Member Alondra Cano (Ward 9) to discuss ways to move forward on the higher minimum wage campaign.

 “It’s time for the Legislature to raise the minimum wage in our state. People who work for a living should be able to earn a living,” Hodges said. “We have some of the largest gaps in the country between the haves and the have nots, and that includes a gap in wages. Raising the minimum wage is one step to address the soaring inequity in our city, our state and our country.”

The rally in downtown Minneapolis came after workers convened for a Raise the Wage event at the state Capitol.

Janitors who clean Target stores and other Twin Cities retailers held three strikes in 2013 in an attempt to secure higher pay.

An estimated 6,000 Target store workers in the state rely on public assistance, according to a report issued in November by Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, a coalition of faith, labor and community groups pushing for an end to poverty wages. 

The Minnesota Restaurant Association and other business groups have voiced opposition to raising the minimum wage, arguing it would cost the state jobs and deter growth. 

DFL leaders who control the Legislature, however, have pledged to make raising the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour a top priority this session, which kicked off Tuesday.