Locked Doors Pose Safety Risk To Cleaning Workers CTUL Claims

Imagine if your workplace caught on fire and when you tried to escape you found the doors were locked. Cleaning workers for Diversified Maintenance Systems say that’s the potential situation facing them in the some of the stores they clean in the Twin Cities. They say the doors of the stores are locked to prevent exit while they work overnight and to exit they would have to find a manager to unlock the doors, even in case of a fire.

In 1911, locked doors and dangerous working conditions led to the infamous New York City Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that killed 146 workers locked in the building. Publicity over the carnage resulted in stricter safety rules for workers.

Seventeen workers at Diversified Maintenance Systems recently filed complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) alleging violations of their right to a safe workplace. Fifteen of the claims were filed on July 31, 2012, the other two during the month of July. OSHA is reported to be investigating the claims, but there is no action yet.

Diversified Maintenance Systems cleans Sears, Kmart, Target and Best Buy stores across the Twin Cities. Retail cleaning workers, CTUL, State Senator Sandy Pappas and concerned community members gathered in front of a St. Paul Sears store on August 28, 2012 requesting action by the contracting stores. Further CTUL action is planned for September 29, 2012 if the issues with Diversified and the contracting stores have not been resolved.

Rev. Doug Mork


Pastor Doug Mork, Cross of Glory Lutheran Church, Brooklyn Center, observed that, “Unfortunately across the Twin Cities, especially in this arena of cleaning. we’ve seen kind of a race to the bottom as one contractor after another tries to underbid the other.”

Over the past five years, Diversified Maintenance, has been involved in at least six lawsuits and one United States Department of Labor investigation. The union says the company has settled all of those lawsuits, presumably with some sort of payment. The most recent lawsuit involves Diversified workers who cleaned Target stores in the Twin Cities metro area, alleging that workers had to work seven days a week without being compensated all of their overtime hours.

State Senator Sandy Pappas said, “I am very pleased to be here to join the call to Sears to support the workers and the neighborhoods by hiring a responsible cleaning contractor.”

Alejandro Quirino stated, “If these issues are not resolved we will be holding a large scale action on September 29th to protest the conditions that Diversified workers face while cleaning companies like Sears, Kmart, Target and Best Buy”

State Senator Sandy Pappas

Alejandro Quirino, Diversified Worker

Veronica Mendez, CTUL

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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