CINCINNATI – The battle between Cintas Corp. and UNITE HERE shows no signs of weakening, as each fired a new salvo at the other last week.
Cintas filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against UNITE HERE, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Change to Win on Wednesday, alleging extortion in the labor unions’ efforts to organize Cintas workers.
The next day, UNITE HERE announced the creation of a coalition of former and current Cintas employees aimed at cleaning up perceived hazards at the company’s industrial laundries in the United States and Canada.
CINTAS ALLEGES ‘UNLAWFUL ATTACKS’
The lawsuit filed under federal and state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statutes alleges that the labor organizations have carried on a five-year campaign of “negative, untrue and unlawful attacks” against Cintas.
The purpose of this campaign, Cintas claims, is to extort concessions from Cintas that would enable UNITE HERE and the Teamsters to become the official bargaining representatives for Cintas employees without providing those employees the opportunity to freely elect union representation by secret ballot.
Cintas alleges the unions have interfered with its existing and prospective business relationships and perpetrated deliberate attacks to artificially depress the value of its stock.
The New York lawsuit also includes several claims that UNITE HERE has violated Cintas’ trademark rights, including improper use of its trade name and trademark in various websites.
It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and consolidates a related defamation lawsuit that Cintas filed in Ohio in 2004. Cintas is seeking a jury trial.
"We have not yet seen the lawsuit or been served," UNITE HERE says in a prepared statement. "However, this RICO suit appears to be a continuation of the company's attempts to harass, bully and repress all who want to help workers gain better jobs and better lives. From media reports, it appears to be a rehashing of its 4-year-old defamation lawsuit."
The union promises to "vigorously defend" itself against the suit.
COALITION MARKS ANNIVERSARY OF WORKER’S DEATH
On the one-year anniversary of the death of Cintas worker Eleazar Torres-Gomez at Cintas’ Tulsa, Okla., plant, Chicago-area employees, elected leaders and community allies rallied outside the company’s Bedford Park, Ill., laundry to announce the formation of the Coalition of Injured Cintas Workers.
The Coalition intends to “expose life-threatening dangers and enforce workplace safety” at Cintas locations.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed an unprecedented $2.78 million in penalties for safety violations in Tulsa following Torres-Gomez’s death.
UNITE HERE believes the Coalition is the first of its kind in the service industry. The Coalition says it hopes to reform Cintas and bring attention to the hazards in the laundry industry.