Cub Plays Hardball With Cleaning Workers

If you’ve worked a lousy job at a lousy employer, you can sympathize with Lucilla Dominguez. She barely makes enough to feed her family and the wages keep going down instead of up. She probably used to work at a store you shop at all the time.

She didn’t work for the store, but she worked at the store, cleaning it up. It’s that distinction that she’s working at the store instead of for is why it so hard for her to change anything about her job. “I’m tired of changing jobs, trying to make ends meet for my family,” says Dominguez. “I’m ready to change things at my job instead of changing jobs again,”

Dominguez worked for a private contractor Super Valu has hired to clean its Cub stores. The private contractor pays low wages and the workers blame Super Valu since it pits one contractor against another to provide the lowest price. That’s why Dominguez and other members of CTUL, a group that represents the workers, have been trying to talk to Super Valu management about the problem. Super Valu’s management has turned a deaf ear, refusing to talk even though workers and religious leaders staged a 12 day hunger strike.

So just like when you run into a bad boss who won’t talk to you, Dominguez and her co-workers decided to go directly to the top. At Super Valu, that’s the shareholders who were meeting this past week in Edina.

Super Valu’s response: a court order that’s so far reaching that if you merely accept a flyer from any of the CTUL protesters, you can be thrown out of Cub if you do anything besides shop for food. To add insult to injury, the company apparently pressured a nearby hotel to kick CTUL out of a room it had rented to hold press conferences during the stock holder meeting.

Background and more video about the dispute.

Super Valu management has so far refused to meet with representatives of the workers cleaning their Cub Foods stores, choosing instead a hard ball approach including getting a court order against the group representing the workers and two of the group members individually.

Court Order Against CTUL and Brian Payne & Veronica Mendez

Court Order Against CTUL & Brian Payne & Veronica Mendez


Page 2 of Court Order


The court order requested by Super Valu contains a finding that. “This action does not encompass a ‘labor dispute’ under Minn. Stat. 185.13.

The workers who toil at night cleaning Cub Foods Stores (a subsidiary of Super Valu) have been struggling for months to get a meeting with the cleaner’s representatives and store management to discuss employee grievances about wages and work conditions. CTUL (Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha – Center for Workers United in Struggle) began in 2005 as a project of Workers’ Interfaith Network (WIN) with the goal of supporting low-wage workers who are facing workplace issues such as unjust firings or wage theft. On November 6, 2010 a march down Lake Street drew some 200 people. There have been a number of rallies since then including attempted visits to Cub and Super Valu management.

CTUL and it’s allies have organized several protests at the Hiawatha/Lake Cub including one in which the non violent protestor was assaulted by a Cub guard. This incident also involved macing a customer and his family who was trying to check out. On June 11, 2011, CTUL members and supporters ended a 12 day hunger strike at the Lake Street store at the request of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison.

Since the only response from Cub and Super Valu has been a deaf ear and the court order, the workers and CTUL decided to try and take their message to Super Valu stockholders at their annual meeting.

A member of CTUL rented a room in the Edina Westin Hotel the day before the annual meeting at that hotel. They intended to use the room as a convenient way to meet with shareholders and a place to hold a press conference. On the morning of the meeting hotel management invalidated the room key and removed the material thay had left they day before and the CTUL people were informed that they were not allowed in the hotel or on their property including all parking spaces at the Galleria Shopping Center. Hotel management has declined three requests for clarification of their action and if this prohibition was requested by Super Valu.

CTUL held their press conference on the public median on West 69th Street in Edina. Pastors Grant Stevensen and the Rev. John Gutterman attended the shareholders’ meeting using proxy letters to deliver about 1500 petitions from Cub customers and a resolution from the Minnesota United Church of Christ asking the company to take steps to ensure fair wages and working conditions for the workers who clean their stores.

CTUL members met cars entering the hotel parking lot and passed out copies of the court order and a flyer requesting shareholder action.

Shareholders: Tell Super Valu to clean up its act

There is a provision on the court order prohibiting CTUL from, “Providing written material or organizational support to any persons whom they know or have reason to know will use the written material or organizational support to trespass on any Cub Foods property.” This appears to prohibit support from concerned citizens, churches or any other organization in the worker’s struggle.

Below a CTUL representative describes how they were kicked out of a nearby hotel room and had their possessions confiscated.

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

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