Workers, supporters end hunger strike but vow to continue campaign

By Barb Kucera, Workday editor
1 June 2011
MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesotans seeking better working conditions for retail cleaning workers ended
their 12-day hunger strike Wednesday without reaching their goal of meeting with Cub Foods
management. But they vowed to continue the campaign.
Rev. Grant Stevensen breaks bread to end hunger strike
The Rev. Grant Stevensen broke bread to end the hunger

Flanked by clergy and elected officials who urged them to halt the 
dramatic effort, the strikers announced an end to their fast but said 
they would keep pressure on Cub Foods to discuss a proposed code 
of conduct for fair wages and working conditions.

“We want to be clear that this does not end here,” said Mario 
Colloly Torres, a member of CTUL, the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en 
Lucha, which launched the worker rights’ campaign and the hunger 

Six workers and supporters had not eaten since May 21. Other 
workers who currently clean stores at night joined the hunger 
strike on a rolling basis.

“This campaign is about basic human dignity and being able 
to see in each other the face of God,” said the Rev. Grant 
Stevensen, pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in St. Paul and a participant in
the hunger strike.

“We can’t give up this fight because what’s at stake is wages – but 
I would say also our soul.”

Support in the community
Participants in Wednesday’s announcement outside the Cub Foods on Lake Street in 
Minneapolis included City Council member Gary Schiff and state Senators Jim Davnie and 
Patricia Torres Ray.

On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council passed a resolution urging all parties to come to 
the table and discuss ways to improve working conditions for the cleaners, who work for 
private contractors hired by the grocery chains.

“What we’ve seen here has been a bold statement that reflects the values of this community,” 
Schiff said. “Declining wages are a race to the bottom that we can’t afford.”

Davnie and Torres Ray called the hunger strikers inspirational and said they needed to end their 
fast so they could continue their leadership on behalf of all workers.

“We will work with you and Cub Foods to come to an agreement,” Torres Ray pledged.

Faith-based campaign
Four Lutheran ministers joined Stevensen in supporting the CTUL campaign. They read a 
letter from Craig Johnson, bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran 
Church of America, urging a “peaceful resolution” that addressed the workers’ concerns.

Ten years ago, many workers who clean Cub Foods made up to $10-$11 an hour, the 
workers said. Now, most make as little as $7.50 an hour and the workload has doubled.

To aid the hunger strikers, churches collected receipts from Cub Foods shoppers. Some 
250 people turned in more than $105,000 in receipts indicating their support for the 

The Rev. Justin Lind-Ayres, pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, said some 
people have criticized his involvement.

“I know and believe deeply in my heart this is precisely where the church needs to be,” 
he said.

For more information

CTUL hunger strikers
Workers  engaged in a 12-day hunger strike (above) gained strength from supporters including (below, from left) Lutheran ministers Patrick Hansel Cabello, Justin Lind-Ayres, Jay Carlson, Grant Stevensen - himself a hunger striker - and Brad Froslee.
Lutheran ministers support CTUL campaign

Video Produced by Randy Croce, University of Minnesota Labor Education Service

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