Cintas is the largest uniform rental provider and industrial launderer in North America. With 27,000 employees, the company operates 170 laundry plants, 103 depots, 10 clean room laundries, 14 manufacturing facilities, seven distribution centers and 36 first aid facilities across the United States and Canada.
A publicly traded company with 2002 profits of $234 million from $2.27 billion in sales, Cintas controls a 30 percent share of the uniform market and sets the standards for the rest of the industry to follow. Unfortunately, those standards are abysmally low. From working conditions to wages to management practices and labor relations, Cintas sets a decidedly substandard example and the company has a growing record of discrimination, wage and hour offenses and federal labor law violations.
The vast majority of Cintas production workers are female and people of color, many of them recent immigrants who labor in near sweatshop conditions for wages as low as $6.50 an hour. Cintas delivery truck drivers are paid higher wages, but they also work under abusive conditions and frequently are denied overtime pay. But when Cintas workers try to organize together to address these injustices, the company retaliates. The company also has successfully decertified dozens of bargaining units and closed unionized facilities after acquiring unionized laundries.
In addition, Cintas manufactures many of the uniforms it sells in a classic sweatshop called Matamoros Garment in Puebla, Mexico, where workers are paid less than the minimum wage, cheated out of their wages, not paid for weeks at a time and forced to work exhausting hours of overtime.
When workers from several Cintas plants in the United States and Canada approached the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) for assistance in forming unions to lift themselves up and gain a voice at work, Cintas declared war on the workers. Anti-union consultants swarmed into plants, security guards began harassing workers suspected of union activity and supervisors began conducting captive audience meetings to intimidate employees in hundreds of facilities. On February 15, UNITE filed more than 80 charges of federal labor law violations against the company in 30 cities.
The AFL-CIO supports UNITE in its efforts to help the Cintas workers fight back against the company’s onslaught and urges all of its affiliated unions and state and local labor councils to pursue all possible legal avenues of supporting the campaign for UNIFORM JUSTICE at Cintas. The federation will make Cintas a focus of its international [email protected] initiative to expose the company’s deplorable tactics and help the public understand the outrageous employer oppression of workers who try to improve their lives by joining and forming unions.
The AFL-CIO Executive Council urges all of its affiliated unions to:
· Encourage their members and their employers (using their managerial discretion) not to purchase uniforms or laundry services from Cintas until Cintas demonstrates it will respect its employees’ right to organize a union free from intimidation, threats and interference.
· Encourage employers that currently have contracts with Cintas (using their managerial discretion) to send a letter to Cintas notifying Cintas that the contract will not be renewed when it expires.