Tuesday was an overwhelming day for members of Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL).
In the past four years, CTUL has lead a 3-mile march, gone on a 12-day hunger strike and has been in dialogue with Target Corp. for over a year to secure a better contract for sub-contracted retail janitors. Their efforts have paid off.
Target Corp. announced Tuesday that it will implement a new Responsible Contractor Policy with its cleaning contractors, which will protect the rights of the sub-contracted workers who clean retail stores around the Twin Cities.
“This policy is the first of its kind nationally and in this industry and this victory will open the door to make sure that low wage workers of color have a real place at the table in deciding the future of the work and the future of this economy,” said CTUL Co-Director Veronica Mendez.
Enrique Barcenas, a CTUL member who is employed by Prestige Maintenance USA and cleans a Target store, said the policy gives workers the right to organize and form safety committees in the workplace and ensures that workers are not forced to work seven days a week. But the biggest piece in this policy will give workers a voice.
“Target is requiring contractors to meet and enter into dialogue with the union, and specifically [the policy] states that they need to come to an agreement with the union to ensure labor peace. And so this is our opportunity to be able to go and talk to contractors, to be able to start a process to have a fair pact within the union without fear of retaliation,” Mendez said.
At a press conference Tuesday, several state leaders stepped forward to congratulate CTUL on its accomplishment and commend Target for its actions, but all noted that there is still work to be done. Many people stepped forward to urge other companies to follow Target’s footsteps.
“We want to call on all other corporations and retailers to also take a lead on health. Allow workers to organize themselves and ask for the things that they need. Pay them a living wage, give them schedules and hours and time off that allow for the dignity in the workplace, and invest in the health of all of our communities,” said Doran Schrantz, executive director of ISAIAH.
Barcenas said that Target’s new policy will affect 150 to 200 workers, but in the region there are around 800 to 1,000 workers that are employed by a variety of cleaning contractors and retailers, such as Sears, Michael’s, K-Mart and Home Depot. CTUL is currently engaged with janitors from these retailers and encouraging them to organize so that other stores may open up and start a dialogue about implementing similar policies.
Mayor Betsy Hodges applauded CTUL's campaign to secure worker protections.
“Congratulations to the workers who remind us all that when we boldly come together throughout grassroots action, we can move mountains," she said. "I also want to extend my congratulations to Target for demonstrating that good corporate citizenship means engaging with the community and valuing its workers. This victory is a reminder that we all have a stake in the success of the entire community.”
Congressman Keith Ellison also released a statement congratulating CTUL and Target.
"Today’s victory is a direct result of Minnesotans standing together for better treatment on the job. This policy will give workers a greater voice in achieving the fair pay and health benefits they deserve," he said. “In the last year, we’ve seen workers all over the country organize around the principle that no one working full time in America should live in poverty. I hope other retailers follow Target’s lead and move the industry towards higher wages and better benefits for working Americans.”
CTUL is planning a victory block party to celebrate the new Target policy on June 14, 1–4 p.m., at the corner of 25th Avenue & East Franklin Avenue.