Executives at Kohl’s had no interest today in hearing concerns about working conditions maintained by cleaning subcontractors inside their department stores – not in Roseville, and not at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Milwaukee.
That’s disappointing, workers said, given the pattern of OSHA violations recently exposed at one of Kohl’s cleaning contractors in the Twin Cities, Kimco/Eurest Services.
Kimco workers, organizing with the Twin Cities low-wage worker center CTUL, were denied entry to Kohl’s shareholder meeting despite obtaining shares of stock in the company.
“Kohl’s is treating them the same way they treated us here,” CTUL organizer Veronica Mendez told a delegation of workers and supporters who entered the Roseville store this afternoon to share their concerns, but left after a manager called the police.
Speaking inside the Roseville store, Kimco worker Rosalia Morales urged Kohl’s to follow Target’s lead and adopt a Responsible Contractor Policy to ensure safe conditions, fair wages and benefits for everyone working inside Kohl’s stores.
In an agreement reached with CTUL last year, Target pledged to do business with contractors that do not force janitors to work seven days a week, allow formation of safety committees made up of at least 50 percent workers and provide protections for workers to join a union without fear of retaliation.
In her 14 years with Kimco, Morales received just one 25-cent raise from the company – that is, until she and her co-workers began organizing with CTUL.
“Recently they gave me a 75-cent raise, but that’s only because of my co-workers, all of us, coming together to support each other,” Morales said through a translator.
Luul Mohamoud, a Kimco worker who cleans inside Kohl’s, explained her decision to travel to the shareholder meeting in a written statement:
As a single mother of two teenage boys, I can barely survive on $9.00 an hour and I can’t take care of our health without any paid sick days. I have suffered injuries at work that my supervisors don’t attend to. I decided to travel to Milwaukee for the Kohl’s shareholder meeting to ask their President to meet with me and my co-workers about the unfair wages and working conditions we face cleaning their stores. It’s time for Kohl’s to adopt a Responsible Contractor Policy.
CTUL’s organizing effort at Kohl’s ramped up after Kimco settled a wage-theft case with workers who supervised cleaning inside Kohl’s and other department stores in Minnesota last month. Meanwhile, the company has faced multiple OSHA violations across the country over the past six years, according to CTUL.
“Kohl’s is a corporation that holds a lot of power, the same way Target does,” Mendez said. “Target took a leadership role by entering into a Responsible Contractor Policy. Kohl’s has that same power.”