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