It has now been five days since Cub Foods cleaning workers began their hunger strike to protest low pay and what they say are unsafe and degrading working conditions.
"Over the last 10 years, our wages have been dropping," says Mario Colloly Torres, who cleaned Cub Foods stores for years before being fired in March.
"We've seen wages fall from about $10 an hour to $7.50 or $8 an hour," says Colloly Torres, speaking through a translator. "We work in a place surrounded by food, while a lot of the time we're not able to feed our own families because our wages are so miserable."[jump]
Colloly Torres hasn't eaten since Saturday, though he periodically sips on lemon juice and maple syrup. Eight others are also fasting.
Colloly Torres says Cub Foods may be the worst offender, but they're hardly the only one. "This is a problem that's happening across the industry," he says.
Cub Foods argues the workers are barking up the wrong tree--they don't employ the workers, contracted cleaning companies do. Colloly Torres doesn't buy it:
"Big stores are pitting cleaning companies against each other to drive down the price of the contract, and we're the ones who end up suffering."
The hunger strike is only the latest stage of a months-long campaign by the cleaning workers. The campaign has so far been unsuccessful, and garnered little media attention, except for an incident in March when a Cub Foods security guard tackled a protester and unleashed pepper spray on other protesters and customers.
Potentially powerful allies are joining the workers, however. Major unions and religious groups have signed on to the campaign. Yesterday SEIU Local 26 President Javier Morillo joined the hunger strike himself, and State Senator Patricia Torres Ray spoke to the protesters, who have pitched tents outside the East Lake Cub Foods since the strike started.
Some of the workers explain the reason behind the hunger strike here: