For immediate release
March 3, 2005
212-265-7000, x 2635
Over 200 Connecticut residents are demanding a hearing on a proposal to loosen pollution restrictions on the Cintas Corp.’s industrial laundry in Branford.
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection has issued a draft permit that allows Cincinnati-based Cintas to nearly double its discharges of polluted water to the town’s treatment plant, despite the DEP’s four-year old lawsuit against Cintas. The unresolved suit charges the company with over 900 violations of its old discharge permit. Only 25 signatures are required to trigger a hearing on the draft permit, according to DEP rules.
In comments to DEP filed today along with the hearing petition, labor union UNITE HERE said that DEP needs to protect the public and the environment by imposing tight restrictions on Cintas because the company:
Â· Continues to violate DEP pollution limits.
Â· Has spilled untreated sewage into the Branford River twice in recent years as well as spilling sulfuric acid from its Buffalo plant and fish-killing detergent to a Pennsylvania creek.
Â· Has been repeatedly cited by DEP and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for failure to adequately train employees in handling such spills.
The union called for beefed up emergency training for Cintas workers, whistleblower protections for employees who report violations or refuse to accept pollution-causing items and tighter pollution restrictions on the company. “Cintas is an environmental scofflaw,” said Wilfredo Larancuent, who heads UNITE HERE’s laundry workers local in Connecticut and New York. “Time and time again, they have broken the law and exposed workers and the people of Connecticut to dangerous chemicals. DEP has to take tough action to protect the community and the environment.”
The DEP sued Cintas in 2001 to stop environmental violations by the company, the country’s largest uniform supplier and industrial launderer. The case, with possible penalties of over $20 million, has not been settled. Nonetheless, DEP has proposed a pollution permit that would allow Cintas to nearly double its overall sewage emissions while failing to strictly control toxic chemical hazards or assure adequate emergency training, UNITE HERE charges.
In January 2003, Cintas employees in the United States and Canada began organizing with UNITE HERE and the Teamsters to improve working conditions and gain respect on the job. UNITE HERE is the merged union of hospitality, gaming, apparel, textile and laundry workers. It represents nearly half a million members in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, including 40,000 in the laundry industry and 6,500 at employers in Connecticut, including Yale University. For more information on Cintas workers organizing, visit www.uniformjustice.org .