For immediate release
March 10, 2009
A Victory for Workers Standing Up for a Union and for the First Amendment
NEW YORK, NY—In an excoriating decision against Cintas, Judge William H. Pauley of the Southern District of New York Court dismissed all claims—federal and state—of Cintas’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) lawsuit against UNITE HERE, the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, and the Change to Win coalition.
Calling the company’s complaint “sprawling” and “larded,” Judge Pauley said, “The Complaint is not [a] ‘short and plain statement’… it is a manifesto by a Fortune 500 company that is more a public relations piece than a pleading.”
“Cintas does not have the right to operate free from any criticism, organized or not,” Pauley continued, noting the constitutional free-speech protection given to labor activities.
“This is a victory not only for Cintas workers—and all working families—across the country, but a victory for free speech,” said UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor. “This decision will hopefully end the absurd practice of using RICO lawsuits to try to criminalize worker organizing.”
The lawsuit, filed in March 2008, was a part of Cintas’s broader campaign of coercion to keep workers from forming a union. Since workers began organizing in 2004, the company has harassed and intimidated workers: according to a National Labor Relations Board complaint settled in January 2008, a manager has even threatened to kick workers’ teeth with steel-toed boots. The labor board upheld a decision last month that Cintas management unlawfully interrogated, discriminated against, and even threatened to fire workers for standing up for safer jobs and better pay.
“For years now my coworkers and I from across the country have been speaking out about conditions at Cintas. They have tried and tried to intimidate and silence us – at work and with this lawsuit,” said Schaumberg, IL Cintas production worker, Eleuteria Mazon. “They have failed again. We will keep telling the world about Cintas, and we will win our union.”
Cintas provides laundry, uniforms and other business services to 800,000 customers across North America. The company has a history of violating worker protection laws, including receiving the largest proposed OSHA fine ever assessed in the service sector for safety violations surrounding the death of Eleazar Torres Gomez in Oklahoma.
Since 2003, UNITE HERE and the Teamsters unions have supported Cintas workers’ fight for better, safer jobs through the Uniform Justice campaign. For more information, please visit www.uniformjustice.org and www.MakeCintasSafe.info.