For immediate release
May 16, 2006
Penalties continue to mount against uniform giant Cintas Corp. for violating Hayward, California’s living-wage law. With the latest ruling by a state court judge, the Cincinnati-based firm now owes workers and the State of California over $1.4 million in back pay, interest and penalties.
On May 11, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Steven Brick ordered the company to pay $362,584 in interest to 219 current and former workers from Cintas’ San Leandro and Union City laundries. Earlier, Brick had awarded the workers $805,243 in back pay and fined the company $258,900, which will be split between the State and the workers. Each worker is now entitled to an average of over $5,600.
“Cintas has been refusing for years to pay us what we earned under the living wage law. So I am glad the judge has ordered the company to pay $1.4 million, including interest for holding onto our money for so long,” said Francisca Amaral, who worked for 13 years sorting and folding laundry at Cintas’ San Leandro plant. “Now Cintas should pay us what they owe and stop fighting living wage laws around the country.”
The City of Hayward contracted with Cintas, the largest uniform rental provider in North America, in 1999 to launder city uniforms. As part of the contract, Cintas agreed to pay its employees working on the contract Hayward’s “living wage,” currently $10.86 an hour with no health benefits. Amaral and her co-workers sued Cintas in June 2003, charging the company with failing to comply with the living wage law. At the time of the suit, Cintas paid production workers an average of around $8.50 an hour, and many received no health benefits. The City of Hayward joined the case that fall after Cintas made the legal claim that the city’s living wage law was unconstitutional.
“The very fact that Cintas workers have to sue to force their employer to obey the law and pay a living wage demonstrates one reason these workers want and need a union,” said UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor. Cintas employees have been organizing with UNITE HERE and the Teamsters since 2003.
Cintas remains beset by claims that it fails to pay its employees properly. Some 2,400 current and former Cintas drivers have joined a collective-action case claiming the company illegally fails to pay the legally required time-and-a-half overtime premium when they work more than 40 hours. Cintas settled a similar driver overtime case in California for more than $10 million in 2002 but failed to change its practices significantly.
UNITE HERE represents nearly half a million workers in the United States and Canada, including more than 40,000 in the laundry industry. For more information, www.uniformjustice.org.