This Week in Labor: Minneapolis Grocery Store Cleaners Launch Hunger Strike

Lindsay Beyerstein

At the end of each week, Working In These Times rounds up labor news we’ve missed during the past week, with a focus on new and ongoing campaigns and protests. For all our other headlines from this week, go here.

—Four cleaners at a Minneapolis Supervalu and four allies began an open-ended hunger strike Saturday in an attempt to pressure the supermarket to negotiate a code of conduct to guarantee fair wages and decent working conditions. The cleaners, members of a Minneapolis worker center, are also demanding the reinstatement of one of their colleagues who they say was illegally terminated. Their fight with Supervalu exemplifies the kinds of community-based, media-savvy tactics that enable well-organized workers to wield power even without an officially recognized union.

—Union reps and General Electric management will head back to the bargaining table on Monday, with less than a month to go before their current four-year contract expires. Both sides expect healthcare costs to be the major sticking point in the upcoming negotiations.

Harvard dining hall workers, fellow UNITE HERE union members, and student allies marched through Harvard Yard on Thursday chanting union power” and we want justice.” The marchers turned out to support members of UNITE HERE Local 26, who are currently renegotiating their contract with the university.

—Air Canada pilots voted 67% to reject a tentative deal with the airline. Air Canada returned to profitability last year and the pilots want a wage hike. The vote will not ground the airline. Under the federally regulated collective bargaiining process, planes will keep flying while a deal is hashed out. 

—The Sidney Hillman Foundation awarded the 61st Annual Hillman Prizes in Journalism on Thursday. Sidney Hillman led the Amalgamated Garment Workers Union and was instrumental in the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

After his death, his comrades created the Hillman Foundation to honor journalists whose work advances social and economic justice. Winners included bloggers at fem​i​nist​ing​.com, author Isabel Wilkerson, and Slate reporter Timothy Noah. See photos of Thursday night’s gala taken by your faithful blogger, who was on hand as the event photographer.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://​www​.hill​man​foun​da​tion​.org/​h​i​l​l​m​a​nblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.
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