Janitors at Target, Best Buy claim they were forced to work 7 days a week with no overtime

Categories: How We Live
janitor.jpg
A lawsuit and new report reveals the janitorial industry's race to the bottom.
Big retailers often contract out their janitorial work, meaning they aren't directly involved in staffing the workers that keep stores clean.

But a report released earlier this week alleges that some of the janitors who clean Target, Best Buy, and Kmart stores have been treated like modern day slaves.

The Center of Workers United in Struggle wrote "A Dirty Business: Worker Exploitation in Minnesota's Janitorial Industry." According to the report, janitorial workers for Tampa-based Diversified Maintenance Systems, a nationwide janitorial company that employs more than 7,500 workers, haven't been paid overtime, occasionally work seven days a week, and in some cases have even been forced to pay managers a "deposit" to get hired.

The report was unveiled during a Wednesday news conference in front of the Minneapolis Kmart near Lake and Nicollet. During the conference, which featured the plaintiffs and their attorney, some janitors who used to work for Diversified said they are owed thousands in back pay. They said Diversified management threatened to fire them if they balked at requests to work unpaid overtime. Some workers said they worked as much as 80 hours a week.

Last fall, a group of a dozen Twin Cities janitors sued Diversified for not paying overtime. Diversified, which has been sued a number of times over working conditions, denies the allegations. Two more plaintiffs have recently joined the suit, and their attorney told the crowd on Wednesday that he hopes to get the case certified as a class action.

Phillip Russell, an attorney for Diversified, told the Star Tribune the company is "vehemently denying their case and we will do so in court." He said the Wednesday news conference was "disappointing."

"It's not a very professional law to litigate a case," Russell said.

Of course, it isn't surprising that janitorial workers, most of whom are immigrants who may not understand their rights, get exploited. As an Uptake report points out, labor is the largest and most costly expense for cleaning companies, so businesses like Diversified need to keep labor costs down in order to win contracts with stores like Best Buy and Target.


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19 comments
Digalaverdad
Digalaverdad

target and best buy both know what is happening and dont care. diversified has hundreds of illegals in many, many stores. the reason is that so they don't have to pay them at all, all they do is call ICE and the labor in these stores is free to them. I worked for them threw a sub-contractor at kmart from chicago and no one got paid. Tim from diversified stole our money no one cared at all. my boss who worked for Tim killed himself after. Tim still works there now for diversified.

Decievious Leroy Johnston Jr.
Decievious Leroy Johnston Jr.

It is kind of funny.  I used to work at Target in the deli department, on the overnight shift.  These  so called "workers" took their sweet-ass time mopping the floors and half of the time was spent gossiping with each other in Spanish (mainly talking about the "puntas" aka the white female team leads at Target).  One time, one of the leads told them, "you are here to work, not to sit and gossip and waste time".  They responded by saying in (broken English): A Cee Ell You!!  Which apparently is Spanish for ACLU.  Sure enough, the next day, the team lead was called into the office and was given her pink slip.  The reason for her firing?  Target claimed that she was "culturally insensitive."  Don't you love "diversity"?    

Decievious Leroy Johnston Jr.
Decievious Leroy Johnston Jr.

Let's not also forget that the vast majority of these workers are illegal immigrants.  Last I heard, if you are here illegally, you really don't any rights.  

Greg
Greg

So,, contact the workers from Jimmy Johns,,and the Wedge,,and learn how to organize and defend yourselves,,I an sure they can point you in the right direction. What has happened will be made right,,but it is up to you to see that it doesn't happen again. ORGANIZE !!

Mark Gisleson
Mark Gisleson

There is absolutely no reason why it should be legal for large businesses to subcontract out their janitorial needs. There is a mountain of data now proving that this kind of subcontracting is just a way of keeping business executives from going to jail for crimes they know damned well their subcontractors are committing.

This is no different than a mafia don farming out a hit to a contract killer. Target and Best Buy hired these subcontractors knowing they couldn't legally provide services and the prices charged, and that they were obviously cutting corners and screwing workers.

A guy who worked for the MN Dept of Labor once told me he had never seen a legal "independent contractor" relationship, and that they were all about dodging legal responsibilities and underpaying workers. Subcontracting is just another variation on that theme.

(And what's with all these instant comments getting immediate likes? CP seems to be getting a lot of corporate troll commenters lately.)

Overblown
Overblown

What a terrible analogy. Do their working conditions suck? Yes. Are the forced to work against their will based solely on their race for no pay and risk violent reprisals? Not so much. Any group that feels disenfranchised (sometimes rightfully, like in this case) are all to eager to throw around the slave card. Slavery happened - it was a real thing and it's impacts can be felt today to more people than some janitors unhappy with their current working conditions. 

Javajeanj
Javajeanj

So, Target or Best Buy was not responsible for the xploitaion of the employees? If that is the case, then their name shouldn't have been dragged through the mud in this headline!

Gramsci1
Gramsci1

Exploitation should be illegal. Not work and workers.

anonymous
anonymous

I guarantee this didn't happen 

xanima
xanima

@Decievious Leroy Johnston Jr. Most of them are LEGAL immigrants, who don't know of their rights and laws.

Gramsci1
Gramsci1

You're wrong about what you last heard. Companies have to abide by the law regardless of the immigration status of those whose labor they exploit.

Huh
Huh

Wait, are they "independent contractors" or just workers?  I didn't read anywhere in this story or any other story that these people were "independent contractors".  I also didn't read anywhere that they were "subcontracting" anything.   It sounds like Diversified is a contractor to those companies, and I don't understand how that in and of itself is somehow sinister.  Now the fact that they are getting royally fucked by that contractor IS sinister, but that's why unions are important.

Kirk the Conservative Jerk
Kirk the Conservative Jerk

Target is one of the companies that contributed to the campaign of Tom Emmer.I think this is a ongoing campaign of hate towards Target which Citypages is heavily entrenched in.

Sojourner
Sojourner

They worked at Best Buy and Target. How is that not relevant to the story?

Mark Gisleson
Mark Gisleson

What was your first clue? "Decievious's" first name?

And why do talk radio listening idiots always think they can get away with racializing their names? Why not Steppin Sweepit Jackson? or Beulah Mopbucket Thomas? Decievious? That's just sad.

Mark Gisleson
Mark Gisleson

Like independent contractors, employees of subcontractors are routinely victimized. The subcontractor is legally walled off so legal penalties do not extend beyond the principal owner who carefully shields his/her other businesses from the bad apple.

This is how big corporations systematically avoid employing certain classes of workers. It lowers their "lowest paid worker to CEO" pay ratio (for PR purposes), lowers costs and obligations, and I'm pretty sure it works out better for them taxwise.

The money for the subcontractor comes largely from what they take from their workers. If they were paying a fair wage and demanding reasonable work effort, the subcontractor wouldn't make a dime at the prices they charge. These are predatory businesses who make their money screwing their own workers, all of who are easily replaced and most of whom just quit rather than file a complaint (assuming they're in the country legally and can file).

There are plenty of legit janitorial services in the Cities, but Target and Best Buy didn't go with them because they can't match the low rates offered by predatory services. 

richard garyson
richard garyson

 It is not the fault of Best Buy or Target, it is the fault of the company that manages the janitors. However, based on the title of the article, one might think it was the fault of Best Buy and Target.

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