For immediate release
August 16, 2007
Community Joins Laundry Workers To Warn City of Contractor’s Dirty Laundry
Unfair labor practice strike at city vendor Prudential Overall Supply could take the shirts off the backs of more than 500 city employees
Oakland—Backed by large piles of laundry, community and labor supporters, today, joined Prudential Overall Supply workers at a rally outside city hall, regarding a possible interruption of city laundry service. The workers came to Oakland from the South Bay seeking the city’s assistance to avoid an unfair labor practices strike at multiple Prudential facilities.
“I have worked at Prudential for 10 years, but still don’t earn the Oakland living wage,” said Leticia Santos, an overall sorter at Prudential’s Milpitas facility, which washes items for the city. “After we started working to change things, the company suspended one of my coworkers and they started threatening people who spoke up.”
Across the western United States, Prudential workers are seeking to improve working conditions and earn a living wage. Prudential has responded with threats, coercion and intimidation. UNITE HERE has helped Prudential workers to file unfair labor practice charges alleging violations of federal labor law in multiple Prudential facilities in California. Union contracts with five other facilities in Los Angeles County expire August 14. Workers may be forced into an unfair labor practice strike, which could cause service interruptions for customers like the City of Oakland.
Last week, Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente wrote a letter to Prudential warning the company: “[if] a labor dispute results in a breach of contract, the City of Oakland may be forced to find another contractor that can guarantee consistent service.” Prudential has not responded to De La Fuente’s letter.
“It’s outrageous that the City of Oakland could be subjected to such a huge disruption, due to Prudential’s greed and intransigence,” said Pastor Ricky Jenkins of the East Bay Interfaith for Worker Justice. “We are just digging out from the Waste Management trash lockout. Here is a successful company which is abusing workers and seems ready to put city laundry service at risk for their own profit.”
Unfortunately, Prudential’s violations of the law may not be restricted to National Labor Relations Act. Last month, seven Prudential Milpitas workers filed complaints alleging violations of the Oakland living wage. The city has begun an investigation into Prudential’s compliance with the law, demanding payroll and other records from the company.
“When we passed the living wage in 1999, we were aiming to improve wages for working families and help secure consistent, quality service on city contracts,” said Amaha Kassa, Director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy. “This laundry contract with Prudential demonstrates yet again how why the law is important. Prudential needs to abide by the law and respect workers’ rights.”
Prudential workers have filed similar living wage complaints in Los Angeles and San Diego. The City of San Diego responded by announcing the termination of Prudential’s contract for violations of the living wage, while enforcement officials in Los Angeles are investigating the workers’ complaints. The federal Department of Labor is also investigating alleged violations of the wage, benefit, holiday and paid time off standards under the Service Contract Act at seven Prudential plants in California and Arizona. Prudential holds millions of dollars in contracts with federal, state and local government agencies.
Prudential has held a contract to launder uniforms for more than 500 City of Oakland employees across several departments since May 2005. The contract is explicitly covered by the Oakland living wage. The Prudential Milpitas General Manager signed an official living wage compliance form in October 2004, yet many laundry workers report earning less than the living wage.
Based in Irvine, Prudential had $127 million in revenue and 10% growth last year alone. While Prudential’s customers include 110 of the Fortune 500 Companies, including well-known names such as Baxter Laboratories and Intel, Prudential workers struggle with poverty and lack of health care.
Prudential is the largest regional uniform and cleanroom laundry company based in California. The company employs approximately 1700 people in 10 states.
UNITE HERE represents 50,000 workers in the laundry industry. Nearly 300 Prudential workers are represented by UNITE HERE.
For more background information on Prudential and workers’ enforcement claims see: http://www.serviceworkersrising.org/prudential/
For further information contact: Jason Oringer (646) 265-7648.