Target endangers workers by locking them in at night

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MINNEAPOLIS -  "Sometimes I am told to work cleaning the store all night long," said Marco Tulio Perez, an employee of Carlson Building Maintenance who cleans a Twin Cities Target store. "When that happens, the doors are locked and we cannot get out unless we call someone to come and let us out. I don't know what would happen if there was a fire or some other emergency. That's really dangerous. What if I can't reach that person? I guess that would be the end of us!"

While Target locks workers in at night on Jan.17, during the day here, it locked workers out. The retail giant locked the doors to its corporate headquarters in downtown Minneapolis on January 17 rather than allow representatives of a workers' organization to hand-deliver a letter outlining concerns about health and safety issues for the workers who clean Target stores. A security guard in a red winter coat stood outside the locked doors to Target's corporate headquarters, keeping an eye on the dozens of workers who gathered in protest outside.

"For a long time, workers have been cleaning Target stores in conditions they find unsafe, unhealthy and even dangerous," said Veronica Mendez, an organizer for CTUL, the Centro de Trabjdores Unidos en la Lucha.

CTUL announced that two dozen employees of retail cleaning companies who work at cleaning Twin Cities metro Target stores had filed complaints that same day with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

"I worked cleaning for Target for three years," said Honorio Hernandez. "In that time I never received any training for how to work safely with the chemicals..."

Mendez said about 150 workers employed by three different cleaning companies clean Twin Cities area Target stores.

CTUL has asked for meetings with Target for the past two years, Mendez said. "They refuse to meet with us, saying they aren't the direct employer."

The OSHA complaints filed by workers include Target and the cleaning companies, Mendez said.  In addition to advocating for safe working conditions, CTUL also has been calling for improved wages for the workers cleaning retail stores.

Steve Share is editor of The Minneapolis Labor Review which, like the Peoples World, belongs to the International Labor Communications Association. Photo: Wayan Vota // CC 2.0

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  • I think the comments of "Ashley" and "anonymous" are incorrect. Fire safety regulations everywhere require that doors be able to be opened from the inside. Of course they can still be locked from the OUTSIDE as long as those inside can get out in an emergency. Can you imagine being trapped in a burning building?

    Posted by bobbie, 01/27/2013 12:40am (1 year ago)

  • I am a retired supermarket worker. All the big stores had night shift workers doing stocking of the shelves but they were NEVER locked people in. If the worker did not have a key to let him or herself out in an emergency, then there were designated key holders or a key holder on the premises at all times so that anyone who had an emergency could leave immediately. This is the way it should be. Target and other stores don't care about these low paid night shift cleaners. They wash their hands of the legitimate problems cited by the workers by saying the contractors who hired them are responsible. But obviously the unscurpulous contractors don't care about the workers and have not made adequate preparations for when someone has to leave. Target bears the ultimate responsibility because it brought in the low wage-paying contractors in the first place.

    Posted by John W, 01/25/2013 8:54pm (1 year ago)

  • Don't you think Target is trying to protect their employees? What if they left the front doors unlocked and an intruder just waltzed in? Or what if one of their employees decide to walk out with some of their merchandise? I think some people need to step back and look at the big picture.

    Posted by Ashley, 01/25/2013 1:27pm (1 year ago)

  • this is how it is at any retail store that closes at night. Do not make this into a target or walmart problem. every single supermarket does the exact same thing at night. it is proper security procedures.

    Posted by anony, 01/25/2013 1:25pm (1 year ago)

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