A security guard at the Cub Foods on Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue put one of the protesters in a headlock and threw him to the ground. The protesters say he and the store manager then blocked the exits to the store while the guard pepper-sprayed the protesters in the face.
One protester, Kristen Melby, was sent to the hospital.
"They assaulted several people, blocked us from leaving, and sprayed protesters and clients alike with pepper spray," Melby said. "Some clients later told us that their two children had been sprayed."
Some background: Employees of Carlson Building Maintenance, which has the contract to clean many Cub Foods locations, have been organizing for better wages and benefits -- as well as for a sexual-harassment free workplace
-- for several months.
Cub Foods says it's not their problem, since it doesn't employ the workers.
If you're curious to know what happens when radical thespians go up against big guys with neck tattoos, here's the video:
"These contractors are not Cub associates," says Rebekah Fawcett, a Cub spokesperson. "We encourage these individuals to reach out to their employer directly if they have specific concerns they believe need to be addressed."
That's what the workers, organized by the group Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha, have been trying to do. They've also filed charges with the U.S. Labor Department alleging unpaid wages and worker intimidation.
But on March 2, Carlson fired Mario Colloly Torres, a leader of the cleaners' movement. Two days later, the cleaners filed a pair of complaints with the National Labor Relations Board claiming Colloly Torres was fired because of his organizing work.
Carlson denies the charges, and says Colloly Torres was fired for his work performance.
"Besides Mario, we're not really sure how many of our workers are actually involved in these protests," says Amy Rotenberg, a spokesperson for Carlson. "We did a survey in the fall, and 80 percent of our workers said Carlson was either a 'good' or a 'very good' place to work."
Which brings up to the incident on Tuesday, when supporters of the cleaning workers tried to stage a little protest-theater in the East Lake Cub Foods. The high-volume agitprop in the canned-goods aisle didn't go over well with the security guard on duty.