Kohl’s janitors plan public action during back-to-school rush

A delegation of retail cleaning workers approached a Twin Cities Kohl's store in May 2015 to voice concerns over working conditions maintained by the retailer's cleaning contractor.

A delegation of retail cleaning workers approached a Twin Cities Kohl’s store in May 2015 to voice concerns over working conditions maintained by the retailer’s cleaning contractor.

Looking to build on recent victories at Target and Best Buy, retail janitors in the Twin Cities will put the pressure on Kohl’s this weekend – during the busy back-to-school shopping season – to do right by the workers who clean its stores.

Janitors organizing with the Twin Cities worker center CTUL want Kohl’s to join Target and Best Buy in signing onto a responsible contractor policy, which would ensure the chain’s cleaning contractors treat workers fairly.

CTUL, a Spanish acronym for Center for Workers United in the Struggle, plans to protest outside “various stores” locally Saturday before bringing together janitors, teachers, parents, children and other supporters for a community march in Roseville. The march will begin at 3:15 p.m. at the intersection of Fairview and County Road B2, ending at the Kohl’s store on County Road B2.

[Click here to RSVP for the event on Facebook.]

Workers have been pushing Kohl’s to address concerns about its Twin Cities cleaning contractor, Kimco, for more than two years.

At a demonstration in Richfield earlier this year, two Kimco employees and CTUL activists described the conditions they face cleaning Kohl’s stores, including long hours and low wages with no voice on the job.

By contrast, in an agreement reached with CTUL two years ago, 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.

CTUL announced the day of action in a press release this week:

“Retail janitors organizing with CTUL will protest at Kohl’s stores in the Twin Cities during the “Back to School” season to highlight calls for Kohl’s to implement a Responsible Contractor Policy. This policy would ensure their janitorial contractor treat janitors fairly. The protests at various stores will culminate in a community march in Roseville at 3:15pm.

“For Kohl’s, Back to School season means more money. During Back to School sales, Kohl’s rakes in about 15% of their yearly profits ($673 million last year).

“But for retail janitors contracted to clean Kohl’s, Back to School season just means extra work maintaining stores during one of the busiest times of the year. Despite the hours and effort they put in, janitors who clean Kohl’s are paid poverty wages and often can’t afford to shop at Kohl’s for their own children.

“Low wages impact retail janitors’ families throughout the year. Children living in poverty are less prepared for school because their parents don’t have the resources to give them the support that all students deserve. They may go to school hungry. Their parents may work two jobs, making it impossible for them to be home and help with homework.

“This year during Back to School season, join retail janitors, educators, and students in the fight for fair wages and working conditions for all families. When parents make a living wage, their kids have a better chance of success in school.”

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