For immediate release
October 14, 2008
MASON, Ohio, October 14, 2008—Cintas workers from across the country rallied with hundreds of local supporters outside of the company’s annual shareholder meeting today to call for an end to unsafe working conditions at the uniform supplier’s industrial laundries. According to recent citations issued by state and federal safety regulators, Cintas workers still face dangers on the job.
“Everyday, I work in pain. And I fear for my coworkers that another tragedy may happen,” said Adela Viera, a Central Islip, New York, worker who was in town for the event. “I’m here today for my voice to be heard.”
UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor voiced the support of the union’s 500,000 working families. “For too long Cintas workers across this country have risked life and limb to do their jobs. Cintas must meet its fundamental responsibility to provide safe jobs.”
More than an estimated 300 hundred community members from Cincinnati and beyond came together in the early morning. After an opening prayer, current and former Cintas workers described the heavy equipment they must work on and the production quotas they struggle to meet. Union members who wear Cintas uniforms addressed the crowd about actions they are taking in support of Cintas workers on their jobs.
As some supporters grasped warm cups of coffee and others held signs saying “Make Cintas Safe” over their heads shareholders drove up to Cintas headquarters, and speakers such as Xavier student activist, Chris Calme called on community support of Cintas workers.
“We are here today because we, like all of you, believe that we are called to be and to do more. We are called to take a stand to make Cintas safe for workers.”
Since the death of a Tulsa worker in March 2007, Cintas has been in the national spotlight. Tulsa worker Eleazar Torres Gomes was killed after he was pulled into an industrial dryer by an unguarded conveyor. He was trapped for 20 minutes in 300 degree heat. OSHA proposed a $2.78 million fine—the largest ever in the service sector—for violations related to this fatality.
Even after this deadly wake-up call, federal and state safety regulators cited the company for more than 90 “serious” violations that could have caused death or serious bodily harm. Cintas has been cited for more health and safety violations than its three largest competitors combined.
In response to these facts, Cintas employees have formed the Coalition of Injured Cintas Workers, with support from UNITE HERE and the Teamsters. The Coalition launched a nationwide tour in Chicago this July to expose the human costs of keeping America’s laundry clean.
“When we began this fight we thought we were just trying to change a company, then we realized we were changing an industry, but today I know we are changing our country,” said UNITE HERE International Vice President Cristina Vazquez.
Cintas workers throughout North America are standing with UNITE HERE and the Teamsters to gain better, safer jobs. Currently, both unions represent roughly 400 Cintas workers. For more information, please visit www.MakeCintasSafe.org and www.uniformjustice.org.