For immediate release
September 26, 2005
Suit is the First Ever to Enforce a Local Living Wage Ordinance
Historic judgment demands that Cintas pay more than $800,000 in backpay to hundreds of workers in California
Oakland, CA-In a long awaited and historic ruling, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Steven Brick ruled on September 23rd in favor of Cintas workers and the City of Hayward who sued the company over violations of the City of Hayward Living Wage Ordinance. The workers’ suit was one of the first attempts to enforce a living wage law through the courts and the first to be adjudicated.
“We are so happy about this decision,” said Francisca Amaral, one of the two named plaintiffs on the workers’ suit. “This money will mean so much to all the workers and our families, and it feels good to finally get what we deserve. It’s unbelievable to us that Cintas spent all that money on lawyers to deny us our rights rather than just us pay fair, legal wages.”
Workers filed suit against Cintas for violations of the Hayward Living Wage in June 2003. Rather than agree to pay the living wage, Cintas opted to drop the Hayward contract and challenge the workers’ rights to back wages. The 219 workers covered, who are current and former workers from Cintas’ San Leandro and Union City laundries, will share an award of $805,243, plus $300,000 in interest.
“This is a huge victory for Cintas workers in Northern California with powerful implications for their coworkers all over North America,” said Bruce Raynor, UNITE HERE General President. “This case exemplifies how Cintas treats workers. They disregard the wage and hour laws, which are the bedrock responsibilities a company has to its workers. Cintas is determined to take the low road when it comes to compensating their employees, even if it costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend a weak case.”
Cintas settled a driver overtime case in California for more than $10 million in 2002, but pay practices did not change significantly. Since then, thousands of drivers across the country have joined a national overtime class action suit against Cintas.
Cintas has shown a resistance to complying with living wage laws across the country. Questions have been raised about Cintas’ compliance with the living wage in Marin County, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica, California as well as Dayton, Ohio. Last year, the City of Madison, Wisconsin voted to override a city staff recommendation and deny Cintas a $350,000 contact, after discovering that Cintas was not abiding by the living wage and had misrepresented its contracting record.
Last week, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office filed suit against Cintas subcontractor Sewing Systems, a Chicago apparel factory that sews garments for Cintas, for violations of the minimum wage. Earlier this year, Cintas called allegations that Sewing Systems denied their workers the minimum wage, “completely false.”
“The city of Hayward did the right thing by joining this lawsuit and fighting for workers,” said Raynor. “These kinds of laws are only as good as their enforcement, and if cities really care about working families, they will have to stand up to companies like Cintas who need to be forced to do the right thing.”
Cases like this are further evidence that Cintas workers would benefit from union representation that would help them protect their rights and insure a safe and fair workplace. Workers at Cintas Corporation began organizing with UNITE HERE and the Teamsters in 2003. UNITE HERE represents more nearly half a million workers in the United States and Canada, including more than 40,000 in the laundry industry. For more information on Cintas Corporation go to www.uniformjustice.org