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Grocery Store Workers Go On Hunger Strike Over Stagnant Wages

All night long, Jose Garcia performs his job while surrounded by food -- a painful bit of irony, he says.  The 52-year-old Mexican immigrant works the overnight shift cleaning floors inside a Cub Foods store in Minneapolis, Minn., a job he's mostly appreciated for the nine years he's held it down. But lately, waxing aisle after aisle filled with groceries has simply reminded him of how little he has.  Despite his long tenure with the same cleaning company, Garcia says he earns a wage of $9 an hour -- more or less the same rate he was making when he started cleaning floors back in 2002. Taking inflation into account, his salary has effectively gone down since he started working on the cleaning crew.

There are times when he can't afford as much food as he'd like. He says it pains him to see workers at the store throw out unsold perishables like roasted chicken at the end of the night.  "It's perfectly good food," Garcia says through a translator. In the past, when he's asked if he can take the food home, he says he's been told that under-the-table giveaways are against store rules.  Sometimes he resorts to visiting the charitable food pantries around town. The irony there doesn’t escape him, either: Grocery stores like the one where he works often donate the very food that goes to those pantries and, eventually, to the needy like himself.  Like a lot of the workers who clean retail and food stores these days, Garcia doesn’t work directly for the store he cleans. He's employed by a company called Carlson Building Maintenance, which has a contract to wax and buff the floors inside Cub Foods stores, a chain concentrated in Minnesota. Cub is owned by Supervalu, a grocery conglomerate that also has Acme, Albertsons and Shoppers among its many holdings. (click on link to read full story)

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