Twin Cities cleaning workers join nationwide call for higher wages

Angela Macario joins a demonstration in support of striking fast-food workers.

Angela Macario joins a demonstration in support of striking fast-food workers.

Angela Macario doesn’t work for a fast-food restaurant, but she knows what it’s like trying to support a family on low wages. That’s why she joined a demonstration in Roseville today in support of striking fast-food workers in 50 cities nationwide.

Macario works for the cleaning contractor KBS Until recently, Macario worked for Star City Commercial, a subcontractor for Kellermeyer Bergensons Services (KBS), which bills itself as the largest provider of retail cleaning services in North America. Macario cleaned retail stores like Marshalls, Michaels and T.J. Maxx.

A mother of six, Macario said the work “doesn’t pay you anything” – and she meant it quite literally.  Macarios quit her job because, by her count, Star City Commercial refused to pay her for time she spent working.

Macario was one of several members of CTUL, an organization of low-wage workers in the Twin Cities, who attended the solidarity demonstration off Snelling Avenue and County Road B today. CTUL organizer Veronica Mendez said the action was intended to raise awareness of both the fast-food strikes and similar efforts afoot locally.

“We are a part of this national movement, standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the country,” Mendez said.

CTUL has focused its outreach in recent years on workers who clean big-box stores like Target, where cleaning workers staged a two-day strike in June.

CTUL members do not work directly for Target, which contracts out its cleaning services. But that doesn’t let the retail giant off the hook, Mendez said.

“We call on Target to be a leader in this industry, to use respectable cleaning contractors that respect workers’ rights and allow workers to have a voice on the job,” she said.

Fast-food workers, who typically earn less than $9 per hour, are asking their employers to commit to paying $15 per hour.

Critics argue such measures are unnecessary, claiming workers in the industry are predominantly teenagers and people seeking part-time work. But an analysis of government data by the Center for Economic and Policy Research tells a different story.

The study found that 70 percent of workers in fast-food restaurants are not teenagers, and 50 percent are 23 and older.

Macario, meanwhile, has even bigger problems than low wages. She and other employees accused KBS Star City Commercial of not paying them in full for their work. The employer agreed to meet with CTUL to discuss the allegations, Mendez said. KBS and the retailers whose stores Macario cleaned continue to deny any responsibility.

“We’re here to ask these big-box stores to take responsibility for what is going on in their stores,” Macario said.

(Updated with corrections Aug. 30, 10:45 a.m.)

Demonstrators gathered across the street from SuperTarget in Roseville.

Demonstrators gathered across the street from SuperTarget in Roseville.

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