Star Tribune Article – Wage dispute at another contractor

Kind of an interesting article in the Strib over the weekend about an employee of a janitorial contractor who asserted that he was, among other things, underpaid.

He was cleaning a retailer – not clear exactly which one but it sounded like a Cub or other Super Valu grocery store.
I don’t know anything about the specific case – tho the attorney for the janitorial contractor made a statement that is likely to have the wage and hour people on the contractor like white on rice (she implied that they were treating cleaners as salaried employees rather than as hourly employees) but the article did make one very good point.
The retailers and restaurants (Wal – Mart, Target, supermarket chains, Menards, Fridays, Brinkers, Champps etc) all pay cleaning contractors at rates that make it unlikely that they are using legal labor. But since they have a janitorial contractor actually fronting for them in the charade, they can claim “plausible deniability”.
Wal Mart got tagged for $40,000,000 or so a few years ago for using in house employees whose legal status (or lack thereof) was basically winked at – so I am sure they are now laundering the illegals thru a constellation of small cleaning contractors too diffuse to ever attract enforcement attention. The rest of the big box retailers were already doing it.
A second charade uses a variety of national brokers (U.S. Maintenance being the most prominent in this market) to put 2 levels of incorporation between the retailer and the illegals.
Appears to work – so far I haven’t seen any action in any of the trade publications that has penetrated this veil.
This is why you will almost never see a reputable commercial cleaning contractor like ABM, Marsden, Onesource, Mid City etc working for these type of customers.
Nor will you see us.
I think of 800 customers we have one restaurant – a one off owned by a customer we do a lot of other work for. No big boxes. We don’t sub to the brokers.
We were once offered a $20,000 per month restaurant account – already fully staffed with the fired janitorial contractor’s employees that we could inherit. When we heard they were making $7.50 per hour in a market where starting wages for ABM are over $10 per hour we were suspicious. We sent in one of our bi – lingual operators with the predictable outcome – no legals on a 10 person crew. Easy decision. Didn’t bother the $billion restaurant company that owns it tho. We told them what we would need to replace the staff with legal employees – costing them another 20% or so. Anyone care to speculate on what decision they made?
As I said in the ABM raid post a year ago – we do a pretty expensive background check on all janitorial franchisees that claims to check not just the authenticity but also the reasonableness of the SS numbers and ID given us. Raises our pricing – but we’re good enough at marketing to survive reasonably well without being the low price guy, and I sleep better at night.
Bob
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