A dirty secret
Big-box stores put the squeeze on contract cleaners
The Sun Prairie Woodman’s store is visible from U.S. Highway 151. The size of a mega-church or a shopping mall, the building glows in the suburban midnight gloom as you approach. Every night around this time, four workers pull into the nearly empty parking lot and enter through the gleaming double doors. Their first stop is to the left, near the customer service counter, where they sign in. Then they slip into the maze of brightly lit aisles, sweeping, mopping and scrubbing the store until 8:30 a.m. They work between five and seven nights a week.
None of these custodial workers are Woodman’s employees. Their aprons and timesheets both say “Midwest Maintenance Group,” the name of an Illinois-based contracting company. But technically they don’t work for MMG either. On paper, they are independent contractors, the final link in a tangled and informal chain of out-of-state contractors and subcontractors.
“This summer I decided to leave my comfort zone, geographically and ideologically, and take a road trip.”
5,000 words. For The Progressive Magazine. Published October 2017.
Given its present condition, it’s hard to believe that during the late Ottoman period this building was one of the most famous in Palestine.
650 words. For Moment Magazine, July 2017.
A Ku Klux Klan banner shocks a small town—and brings back memories of deeply rooted prejudices.
1500 words for Moment Magazine, May 2017.
The Peacemaking program adapts Native American conflict resolution strategies to New York City court cases within the Justice Center’s catchment area – police precincts 72, 76, and 78. It is the first such program in the country, and Officer Williams is among the first police officers to receive the training.
2,600 words for The Red Hook Star-Revue, December 2016.
Hurricane Sandy badly affected the Red Hook Houses, worsening the already uncomfortable living conditions for Red Hook’s 6,217 NYCHA residents. Four years after the storm, a process is underway not only to repair the damage, but to improve Red Hook’s NYCHA development overall.
2,800 words for the Red Hook Star-Revue, October 2016.
25I, which is in a family of drugs also known as “n-bomb” and “smiles,” is part of a new wave of synthetic street psychedelics that have been gaining in popularity among young, white Madisonians. Lt. Jason Freedman, a Madison police officer who is part of the Dane County Narcotics Task Force, says that in coming years these drugs may overshadow heroin as the focus of his unit.
2,600 words for Isthmus. April 2015.
Unable to find housing near his family in Marinette County, Brooks was called back to Madison by the probation office. He expected to be confined inside a Dane County halfway house. His probation officer had different plans for him.
1,100 words for Isthmus, July 2013.
Dane County has a national-caliber farmers' market, and Madison has impressive foodie credentials, but the Madison Metropolitan School District serves 19,000 meals a day (PDF) based on products supplied by such corporations as Tyson, Cargill and AdvancePierre.
1,200 words for Isthmus, January 2014.
Ridglan Farms breeds beagles for research. In 2014, it housed 3,733 beagles, 622 of which were experimented upon in some fashion at the farm itself, according to Burns. Its breeding colony consists of around 750 bitches and 70 studs.
3,000 words for Isthmus, March 2015.
As the UW-Madison's first professor in Hmong American Studies -- the only tenure-track faculty in his field in the world -- Xiong is working to help the university connect with the Hmong community. Yang Sao Xiong has only been in Madison for a year and a half, but the process that brought him here was 20 years in the making.
2,500 words for Isthmus, December 2014.