For immediate release
September 22, 2004
OSHA says Cintas has broken the same safety rules before; fines company over $44,000 for exposing workers to dangers that could lead to "death or serious physical harm."
Rochester, NY -Despite earlier citations for serious safety problems in Connecticut and Illinois, Cintas has committed some of the same violations at its plant on West Main St., prompting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to fine the company more than $44,000.
OSHA cited Cintas for 29 violations, including: failure to offer hepatitis vaccinations to workers who handle blood-contaminated laundry; exposing workers to the risk of being crushed between a wall and giant industrial washing machines when the machines tilt up for loading and unloading; exposing workers to live electrical parts; and providing workers who handle contaminated garments with inferior, disposable masks instead of approved respirators. Seven of the 29 violations were repeats of violations OSHA cited Cintas for last July at the company’s Branford, Conn., or Bedford Park, Ill., plants.
The fines are a vindication for former Cintas worker Keith Crawford. Cintas fired Crawford in July from his job unloading delivery trucks at the Rochester plant after he repeatedly raised concerns about unsafe conditions. Crawford says Cintas managers failed to lock the huge industrial washers in place before sending workers to clean behind the machines. “Someone could easily come along and tilt a machine up to start putting clothes in it and kill another employee cleaning behind the machine,” Crawford reports. UNITE HERE has recently filed an OSHA complaint charging that Cintas fired Crawford partly in retaliation for his safety-related protests. The union has already filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board claiming the firing was also linked to Crawford’s support for organizing Cintas workers.
“It’s bad enough to endanger the people who work for you,” says UNITE HERE Health and Safety Director Eric Frumin. “It’s inexcusable to keep putting them at risk after the government has already told you to stop it.” Frumin notes that the fines are higher than OSHA usually levies and are the biggest the agency has yet imposed on Cintas. Ironically, Cintas, the largest uniform supplier in North America, has a division that advises companies on compliance with federal and state health and safety regulations.
Together, UNITE HERE and the Teamsters represent more than one-third of the workers in the North American uniform and laundry industry and are working to organize over 17,000 Cintas drivers and production workers. UNITE HERE is the newly merged union of hospitality, gaming, apparel, textile and laundry workers. The new union represents nearly half a million workers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents more than 1.4 million members throughout North America.