Protest for better pay, conditions shuts down roads during commute

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A protest calling for better pay and working conditions for Twin Cities janitorial staff has spilled over into Thursday, blocking roads in Minneapolis during the morning commute.

The demonstration by janitors started on Wednesday, but supporters inspired by the action continued to protest on Thursday under the banner #ReclaimMN, with the Star Tribune reporting they've caused huge traffic jams on Interstate 94 and Interstate 35W.

Minneapolis police told the paper marchers have taken over 12th and 11th streets and the area of 3rd to 5th Avenue South in downtown Minneapolis, bringing traffic to a standstill.

FOX 9 reports dozens of other community members are marching in solidarity with the janitors, as well as with St. Paul teachers who staged a "walk-in" protest at schools on Wednesday, calling for better working conditions.

They have been organized by the Minnesotans for a Fair Economy group, which told the TV station they had been inspired by the janitor and teaching union protests on Wednesday.

Members of the Services Employees International Union Local 26, which represents more than 4,000 people working for firms contracted to clean Twin Cities office buildings, voted last month to authorize an “unfair labor practices” strike if employers didn’t improve the terms of a three-year contract for workers by Feb. 14.

The SEIU is asking for a $15 minimum wage and changes to workloads that union representatives say is impacting their health.

They started picketing on Wednesday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, before holding later demonstrations in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.

In St. Paul meanwhile, public school teachers are calling for a series of changes as they negotiate their latest contract, demanding further reductions to standardized testing, extending paid parental leave and a larger wage increase than the 0.5 percent on the table.

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