During a two-day organizing conference held in Cincinnati last weekend, approximately 500 UNITE HERE service sector members and staff gathered together to launch the Service Workers Rising! campaign, an effort to unite 100,000 UNITE HERE members employed in the Laundry, Airport concessions and the Food Service industries across North America. Service companies like Compass, Sodexho and Aramark are taking over the "non-core" work of food service, laundry, and cleaning from hospitals, universities and airports. These companies consider it all one industry, so UNITE HERE members are organizing into one strong division as well.
Members participated in breakout sessions during which they planned on how to increase organizing in their shops, and listened to presentations made by sector and affiliate leaders as well as General President Bruce Raynor and President/ Hospitality Industries John W. Wilhelm. Actor and activist Danny Glover joined civil-rights activist Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and several laundry workers on Saturday to offer his support and to highlight some of the abuses committed by Cintas, the uniform and laundry company with headquarters in Cincinnati.
"It’s shameful that I have to stand here, that all of us have to be here and talk about [the labor abuses committed by Cintas]," said Glover during the press conference. "There’s just so many other things we need to talk about in the world, in our communities, in elevating those communities," said Glover, "because what we have here are people who deserve the opportunity to live their lives in dignity."
Cintas recently announced plans to stop processing laundry at its Detroit plant, one of the few where Cintas workers have a voice through a union. Susan Amos, who has worked at the Detroit plant for the last 18 years, said, "I think Cintas still has a problem with discrimination. They made some moves to take the heat off after these lawsuits started. But the better jobs still mostly go to white men. The people losing our jobs are almost all African-American."
For more information on Service Workers Rising and its campaigns, go to www.serviceworkersrising.org.