Cub Foods workers take protest to Supervalu shareholders meeting
It's been nearly two months since a group of disgruntled Cub Foods workers ended a 12-day hunger strike, and they say nothing has been done to improve working conditions.
That same crew of workers is staging a protest today at an Edina shareholders meeting for Supervalu, the parent company for Cub.
Veronica Mendez, one of the leaders of the protesting group, says they've been trying to sit down with Supervalu for a year and a half to hash out widespread worker complaints.
"We have not been able to engage in any meaningful dialogue," says Mendez. "And so we're here today outside of the shareholders meeting to be able to send a message to the shareholders."
Today's is just the latest in a long series of protests held by the Cub Foods workers. According to protesters, they have been tasked with increasingly demanding and unfair workloads. At the same time, employee pay has been cut significantly.
"We have to clean not only the store but the bathrooms, the break rooms, the deli, the bakery--it's a lot," says Jose Garcia, one Cub Foods worker protesting today, through a translator.
As the workload has increased, Garcia's wage has been cut from $11 to $9 per hour over the years, he says.
This morning, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison released a statement urging Supervalu to sit down with protesters and discuss working conditions.
"It's an injustice that some of these workers are paid so little they cannot afford to buy groceries from the stores they clean, but instead have to rely on the same food pantries their employer donates to," says Ellison. "I urge all parties to come to the table and engage in an honest, open dialogue."
Supervalu didn't return a call for comment this morning, but it appears the ongoing protests have piqued the corporation's attention.
The company recently filed a civil suit against the protesters requesting damages, says Kevin Whelan, spokesman for Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, a workers' rights group and ally of the protesters. Whelan says a lawyer representing the protesters plans to file a motion to dismiss the suit today.
Supervalu also filed a temporary injunction against protesters in attempt to bar them from causing further disruption.
Whelan says the demonstrators have taken steps to comply with the injunction during the protest. The group even rented out a room at the Westin Hotel, where the shareholders meeting is held, to conduct media interviews. But Whalen says they've already been booted out of that room.
"Security is kind of tense here," he says.
Grant Stevensen, a pastor supporting the Cub Foods workers, just called us from outside the shareholders meeting.
Stephenson got into the meeting as a proxy for a Supervalu shareholder, he says, and used the scheduled Q & A time to talk about the unfair working conditions for the protesters.
He says his two-minute speech didn't exactly earn a standing ovation, but did appear to get the attention of some sympathetic shareholders in the audience.
"There were a couple of people who actually clapped," he says.
Mike Siemienas, a spokesman for Supervalu, called City Pages to respond to comments from protesters. Siemienas notes that the workers who clean Cub Foods floors are actually employed through an independent contractor, not Cub. He also says that Supervalu has been targeted unfairly by "aggressive" protests. Read his full response here.
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