Janitors, teachers protest Kohl’s during back-to-school rush

Janitors and their supporters march along County Road B2 in Roseville, near Rosedale Mall.

Janitors and their supporters march along County Road B2 in Roseville, near Rosedale Mall.

 

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

Janitors brought busloads of supporters, including union teachers, nurses and construction workers, to Kohl’s locations across the metro area Aug. 20, a day of action that culminated with a march to the Roseville store that briefly shut down traffic on County Road B2.

Kohl’s janitors, who are organizing with the Twin Cities worker center CTUL, have been pushing Kohl’s to address concerns about its Twin Cities cleaning contractor, Kimco, for more than two years. They want the retailer to join Target and Best Buy in signing onto a policy ensuring the chain’s cleaning contractors treat workers fairly.

Esteban Miranda cleans the Kohl’s in Blaine.

Esteban Miranda cleans the Kohl’s in Blaine.

Kimco employees at the march described working long hours for low wages, with no voice on the job.

Esteban Miranda, a two-year Kimco employee who cleans the Kohl’s in Blaine, earns minimum wage and receives no paid sick days or holidays. He has to work multiple jobs to help support his family of four.

“We’re fighting for a Responsible Contractor Policy so that they will listen to our voices,” Miranda said. “That’s why we’re here, and we’re going to keep up the fight.”

Standing shoulder to shoulder with Miranda during the march in Roseville were several members of St. Paul Federation of Teachers Local 28. SPFT President Denise Rodriguez called it a “cruel irony” that Kohl’s rakes in 15 percent of its profits during the back-to-school shopping season, while many of the janitors who clean its stores can’t afford new clothes for their children.

St. Paul Federation of Teachers Vice President Nick Faber speaks at a rally outside Kohl’s in Roseville.

St. Paul Federation of Teachers Vice President Nick Faber speaks at a rally outside Kohl’s in Roseville.

When parents work multiple jobs or lack access to earned sick and safe time, SPFT Vice President Nick Faber added, it creates barriers to success for their children.

“We see older brothers and sisters not coming to school because they have to stay home with younger siblings who are sick,” Faber said. “We see students who can’t concentrate because they’re hungry. We see students who can’t concentrate because they haven’t slept.

“Kohl’s needs to recognize the importance of their janitors in creating an inviting climate for spending money, and they should be ready to share it with those janitors.”

CTUL, a Spanish acronym for Center for Workers United in the Struggle, reached a historic agreement with Target two years ago in which the retailer agreed 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.

Best Buy agreed to a similar policy in June.

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