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September 22, 2004

OSHA Cites Cintas -- Again

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Cintas, a Cincinnati-based laundry and uniform rental company, for numerous workplace safety violations, many of which had been cited before at other Cintas plants. UNITE/HERE is engaged in a bitter organizing campaign with the company, attempting to organize over 17,000 Cintas drivers and production workers.

OSHA cited Cintas for 29 violations, including: failure to offer hepatitis vaccinations to workers who handle blood-contaminated laundry; exposing workers to the risk of being crushed between a wall and giant industrial washing machines when the machines tilt up for loading and unloading; exposing workers to live electrical parts; and providing workers who handle contaminated garments with inferior, disposable masks instead of approved respirators. Seven of the 29 violations were repeats of violations OSHA cited Cintas for last July at the company’s Branford, Conn., or Bedford Park, Ill., plants.
The union has made health and safety issues a central part from the beginning of its campaign to get the company to recognize the union. And some workers have been paying the ultimate price:
The fines are a vindication for former Cintas worker Keith Crawford. Cintas fired Crawford in July from his job unloading delivery trucks at the Rochester plant after he repeatedly raised concerns about unsafe conditions. Crawford says Cintas managers failed to lock the huge industrial washers in place before sending workers to clean behind the machines. “Someone could easily come along and tilt a machine up to start putting clothes in it and kill another employee cleaning behind the machine,” Crawford reports. UNITE HERE has recently filed an OSHA complaint charging that Cintas fired Crawford partly in retaliation for his safety-related protests. The union has already filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board claiming the firing was also linked to Crawford’s support for organizing Cintas workers.
More information on health and safety issues at Cintas here, here and here. More on the organizing campaign here.

Posted by Jordan Barab at September 22, 2004 09:57 PM