For immediate release
March 7, 2008
Workers Announce Investigation into Hazards that Led to Worker's Death
CHICAGO—On the one year anniversary of the horrific death of Cintas worker Eleazar Torres Gomez in Tulsa, Oklahoma, employees at Cintas, North America’s largest industrial laundry, launched a historic effort to force the company to provide safe workplaces. Chicago-area employees, elected leaders, and community allies rallied outside of the company’s Bedford Park, Illinois, laundry to announce the formation of the Coalition of Injured Cintas Workers. The nationwide Coalition is comprised of former and current Cintas employees dedicated to cleaning up hazards—some potentially lethal—at the company’s 400 facilities in the United States and Canada.
Workers at the Illinois laundry also announced that they have alerted the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to the existence of the same kind of dangers that led to Mr. Torres Gomez’s death. OSHA began investigating these potentially lethal hazards at Bedford Park earlier this week.
“One year after our coworker was killed, we should not have the same dangerous conditions in our plant that led to his tragic death,” said Gregorio Delgado, who works in the Bedford Park laundry. “In addition to unsafe machinery, the pressure we are under to meet our quotas is so high that we are working in pain everyday.”
Eleazar Torres Gomez was killed March 6, 2007, when he was pulled into an industrial dryer by unguarded conveyor belts. Trapped in 300 degree heat for at least 20 minutes, Torres Gomez died on the scene of trauma and thermal injuries. OSHA found that Cintas management “ignored safety and health rules that could have prevented the death of this employee,” and proposed an unprecedented $2.78 million in penalties for safety violations in Tulsa. The same violations were also found in Ohio, California, Washington, and Alabama.
Cintas appealed all of these citations, delaying its requirement to fix these violations. One year after a Yakima, Washington, worker’s arm was shattered and nearly ripped from its socket, the company finally dropped its appeals in that state. The company is now required to correct the unsafe conditions.
“Cintas could easily fix these problems, but the company would rather fight workers with appeals and lawsuits than provide lifesaving protections,” said UNITE HERE Executive Vice President Noel Beasley. “The 450,000 working families of UNITE HERE will continue standing with Cintas workers until the company’s policies put safety, family, and dignity above its greed.”
Laundry workers face hot, dirty and dangerous conditions at work. Large laundries have a higher injury rate than chemical manufacturing plants and gas and oil drilling companies. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, workers are at high risk for repetitive stress injuries.
Over the past five years, OSHA has issued double the number of citations at Cintas than it has for its three leading competitors combined.
UNITE HERE believes the Coalition of Injured Cintas Workers is the first of its kind in the service industry. The Coalition hopes to reform Cintas and bring attention to the hazards in the laundry industry.
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.