Strike vote nets Minneapolis laundry workers a better deal

Ehler Moo joins a union rally outside the Aramark laundry facility in Minneapolis.

After voting 97-1 to authorize a strike last week, laundry workers at Aramark’s northeast Minneapolis facility today accepted an improved offer from their employer, roughly doubling the wage increase included in the contract.

The laundry workers, members of CMRJB Workers United, had planned a rally this afternoon to alert the company they were ready to strike if negotiations over a new contract did not progress before Friday, when the previous agreement expires.

Instead, workers found themselves voting on a new offer, one that included annual wage increases of 75 cents – up from around 35 cents in previous offers, according to a representative of the union.

That’s a 5% raise for workers like Ehler Moo, who makes $15 per hour loading and offloading trucks at the facility, a job he has had for over five years. Moo, who lives in St. Paul, said he and other workers needed to see more money in their next contract to keep up with the rising cost of living.

“I live with my parents, and I have to take care of my parents,” Moo said. “I pay the electricity bill, other bills. We need more money.”

Aramark is a Fortune 500 food and facilities-service company that reported over $14 billion in revenues in 2018. Workers at its northeast Minneapolis site clean linens, towels and clothing for facilities in the area.

Aramark worker Rita Yee speaks to a TV reporter during the rally.

Starting pay at the laundry is between $14 and $15, workers said.

Rita Yee, who sorts towels and uniforms after they are laundered, said she still makes an hourly wage of $15 after nearly 14 years with the company. Some workers with more than 25 years of service make around $17 per hour, she added.

The work is hard, Yee said as she pointed to her back, which hurts as a result of lifting 50-pound hangers throughout the workday. She said she approached management about a raise after being moved into the position from a less taxing one, but her request was denied.

She will get that raise soon.

“Gas, groceries, everything is going up,” the St. Louis Park resident said. “Everyone is sticking together because we want more money.”

CMRJB Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), represents thousands of workers across the Midwest in laundries, hotels, hospitals, distribution centers, food service, apparel, textile factories, light manufacturing and other industries.

“You absolutely deserve a fair union contract,” Phillip Cryan, executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, told Aramark workers. “You deserve raises, and you deserve respect.”

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