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Press Center

For Immediate Release
February 2, 2009
Matt Painter
646/673.4999 // mpainter@unitehere.org

Rep. Lynn Woolsey Says Area Employer Demonstrates Need for Stronger Workforce Protections
Woolsey Meets with Cintas Workers to Celebrate Living Wage Victory

SAN LEANDRO, Calif., January 31—Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma) pointed to area employer Cintas as a prime example of why the Employee Free Choice Act is crucial to America’s workers. The Congresswoman met with laundry workers today at a party celebrating the recent payment of $1.65 million in unlawfully withheld back wages to Cintas employees in Northern California.

“I am thrilled that Cintas workers have finally gotten their hard earned money,” said Rep. Woolsey. “But many problems remain at the company. I have met Cintas workers who say they’ve faced unsafe conditions at their jobs and intimidation for forming their union. The problems of Cintas workers are unfortunately all too common in this country and show why America’s workers need the Employee Free Choice Act.”

This legislation would help workers organize for safer jobs and better benefits by increasing penalties for violations of workers’ rights when employees organize and ensure that newly formed unions get first contracts. It would also allow workers to form a union by collecting a majority of signatures on union authorization cards.

Cintas laundry workers have been trying to form a union with UNITE HERE and the Teamsters since 2003. That year employees at the company’s San Leandro and Union City facilities filed a class-action lawsuit in Alameda County in 2003, alleging that Cintas, the nation's largest industrial launderer, did not pay the wages required by the City of Hayward’s living wage ordinance. Cintas had a contract to clean the uniforms of Hayward workers. The lawsuit set a precedent for cities across California by confirming the legality and enforceability of living wage ordinances. Los Angeles workers currently have a similar lawsuit against the company.

“It is inspiring to see what workers can do when we stand together,” said Francisca Amaral, one of the named plaintiff in the suit, who worked at Cintas’ San Leandro laundry for 13 years, about the recent payment of back wages. “With the help of Rep. Woolsey and the Employee Free Choice Act, we will finally gain justice at Cintas.”

Ms. Woolsey, chairwoman of the U.S. House’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, has been an outspoken advocate for Cintas workers in Congress. She has criticized the company for repeated health and safety violations.

OSHA has issued $2.8 million in penalties against the company for violations surrounding the death of worker Eleazar Torres Gomez in Oklahoma. Cal/OSHA has issued citations and special orders for similar machine guarding violations at the Cintas laundries in Stockton, Gilroy and Vista.

For more information on Cintas workers’ efforts to win better safer jobs, please visit www.uniformjustice.org and www.MakeCintasSafe.info.

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