WASHINGTON — Two powerful unions have joined forces with House lawmakers in an effort to push Cintas Corp., the nation’s leading supplier of commercial uniforms and laundry services, to sign an agreement that would allow its employees to...
WASHINGTON — Two powerful unions have joined forces with House lawmakers in an effort to push Cintas Corp., the nation’s leading supplier of commercial uniforms and laundry services, to sign an agreement that would allow its employees to organize without holding an election.
UNITE and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters unveiled a letter signed by 90 Democratic and one Independent congressional lawmakers and sent to Robert Kohlhepp, chief executive officer of Cintas, at a joint news conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
The two labor groups formed their first alliance ever last month to organize 17,000 Cintas laundry employees and truck drivers. They want to accomplish this through what is called a card-check neutrality agreement, in which employees merely sign cards accepting a union without holding an election, and a company agrees to recognize the cards.
“The laundry workers at Cintas don’t make a living wage, are paid poverty-level wages and two-thirds don’t have health care,” charged Bruce Raynor, president of UNITE. “They all get discriminated against or crushed when they attempt to organize.”
James P. Hoffa, president of the Teamsters who also attended the news conference, said he is concerned about the rights of truck drivers.
“What is wrong with this picture is that you can’t exercise your first amendment right to talk about organizing without the threat of being fired,” Hoffa said. “We understand this is a big job. We understand we are fighting a $1 billion bully that will do anything to keep us out, but we are going to do whatever it takes to win this battle.”
In the letter, the members of Congress said: “It is our belief that employees cannot freely exercise their right to join a union in an environment where employers are coercing or trying to sway employee opinion.”
It is unclear what kind of political lift the letter will get, since it was signed strictly by Democrats in a GOP-controlled Congress.
UNITE has alleged that Cintas has violated labor laws in several instances, including firing workers who supported unionization, and has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board. Cintas has denied all of the allegations leveled against it by the unions and maintained Wednesday it will never sign a card-check agreement.“We steadfastly support employee choice and will never surrender our employees’ right to an election — that is through deals with unions called ‘card-check neutrality,’” Kohlhepp said in a statement. “Such deals only circumvent the government-supervised process and rob individuals of their rights to free elections.”
A UNITE official claimed, however, that the card-check agreement must be verified by an arbitrator or community leader.
Of the 27,000 workers employed by Cintas, approximately 700 already belong to unions, according to the spokesman. Cintas operates 300 facilities nationwide.
The spokesman said Cintas has contributed more than $100 million to a profit sharing and 401K plan over the past 10 years and offers its employees six different health insurance plans.
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