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The San Francisco Chronicle reports on a class action suit that has been filed on behalf of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of California janitors, accusing several supermarket chains and cleaning contractors of paying them less than minimum wage and no overtime.

Attorneys for the janitors say that the plaintiffs largely are immigrants with minimal knowledge of US labor laws, and that they are aggressively advertising on Spanish-language radio stations for people to join the suit.

According to the paper, the litigators are seeking $100 million in compensatory and punitive damages from Safeway and its Vons division, Albertsons, and Ralph's supermarkets, and from Encompass Staffing Services and its subsidiary Building One Service Solutions.

The lawsuit charges that even though the janitors are called independent contractors, the supermarkets set their schedules, supervise their work, and are their de facto employers. The current arrangement has saved the grocery chains millions of dollars in overtime pay, payroll taxes, and workers' compensation insurance, according to the suit.
KC's View:
Not a great time to be a big California supermarket chain. Wal-Mart's coming to town, there are labor issues up and down the coast, and now even the janitors are filing lawsuits.