Tuesday, August 12, 2003

The way you get a union is by acting like a union

Good story in In These Times about UNITE's Cintas organizing campaign. It's inspiring to see unions that really takes organizing seriously.
Since 1998 UNITE has quadrupled the number of unionized industrial laundry workers to 40,000. UNITE now represents about one-fourth of hourly employees in the industry. The union has boosted wages, won company-paid health insurance, expanded other benefits, and given workers a voice in the laundry industry through an aggressive organizing strategy. It has combined community pressure—mobilizing clergy, politicians, community groups, and customers—with vigorous employee organizing to demand “card check” recognition of the union. In other words, rather than go through the NLRB election procedures—which give employers greater opportunities to intimidate workers in anti-union campaigns and then to fight further over negotiating a contract if the union wins—UNITE typically fights to win promises of employer neutrality and, preferably, acknowledgement of the union on the basis of large majorities of employees signing union cards. Often workers strike, in conjunction with a comprehensive community support campaign, to win recognition. “The way you get a union is by acting like a union,” argues Liz Gres, who oversees the 30 organizers now focused on seven major Cintas markets.
The San Mateo Daily Journal has an article about a UNITE rally today at Starbucks, in order to pressure the company to fire Cintas as their apron, mat and linen service.
Cintas was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for serious violations last month, said UNITE spokesman Jason Oringer.

Two Cintas workers have also died because of “illegal and unsafe working conditions,” according to a statement by the group. They also charge that Cintas is under investigation for more than 100 violations of federal labor law including illegally firing and retaliating against pro-union employees.
There are other stories about the Cintas campaign here and here.