26 Arrested as Workers Continue to Call for Better Wages in St. Paul, Minneapolis

Updated: 11/30/2013 10:55 AM KSTP.com By: Cassie Hart

Minneapolis workers call for better wages.
Minneapolis workers call for better wages.
Photo: Photo: KSTP/Tim Zelenak

Protesters continued calling for better wages on Black Friday in what organizers are calling the largest strike of its kind in Minnesota.

So far, 26 people were arrested while practicing non-violent civil disobedience during the march in St. Paul, according to protest organizers.

They have been cited for blocking traffic during Friday morning demonstration at intersection of University and Snelling, according to St. Paul police.

Retail cleaning workers, contracted to work at more than 40 stores in the Twin Cities, walked off the job in an unfair labor practices strike.

The workers are not organized through a union, but joined together through Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), a Twin Cities workers center.  According to a news release, they have been in talks with Target in recent months about their working conditions and have not seen any changes.

Police gave warnings for 15 minutes and blocked off the street to keep people from getting hurt.  Still, many disobeyed the orders and were arrested. With hands tied, they were filed one by one into squad cars, hoping to gain attention from big box stores like Target and Walmart.  

"We want people to see us.  We want people to notice," said protester Maricela Flores.

A friend translated while we asked questions.

"The truth is for me and for other people who are making this low wage we sometimes have to have two or three jobs," said Flores.

Flores works for a cleaning company contracted out by Target. With five kids at home, she's striking for the day, hoping these actions are worth more than she'd earn if she were at work.  

"Making 8 dollars an hour you have to decide, 'Do I buy meat or do I buy fruit?  Or do I buy food or do I buy a material good?"

Mayor-elect Betsy Hodges voiced her support for workers in a statement released Wednesday.

 “At the start of this holiday season, Minneapolis is thankful to the low-wage workers who drive our thriving economy. Because of the hard work that they and their families do every day, Minneapolis' economy is thriving and is recovering faster from the recession than almost any other big city. We all owe them a debt of gratitude,” said Mayor-elect Hodges. “Now, low-wage workers are united in courage: they are determined to lift their wages above poverty levels and protect dignity and respect in the workplace, and Minneapolis is joining cities across America in standing with them. So many people are coming from every corner of our city to support them, because in Minneapolis, we know that we all do better when we stand together.”

Friday's strike caps a week of action calling to end poverty wages.

Workers striking at Walmart in Brooklyn Center kicked off the week on Monday, with additional worker-led demonstrations at a St. Cloud temp agency on Tuesday and at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Wednesday.

Hundreds of low-wage workers also marched along University Avenue in St. Paul to demand higher pay.
The march stretched for blocks down University Avenue.

The Associate Press contributed to this report.