In a major victory for working people, Mission Linen workers in three Arizona cities voted to join over 1,500 Mission workers represented by UNITE.

The results of a May 2 vote in Phoenix were overwhelmingly in support of the union – 113 to 62. The next day workers in Tucson voted for the union 27 to 25; a week later in Flagstaff, workers voted 30 to 28 in favor of UNITE. Mission Linen workers also won representation in Albuquerque, N.M.

The Tucson and Flagstaff votes each had five challenged votes. Workers will have to await a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board regional office in Phoenix before they can expect the company to begin negotiations.

Maria Caro, who has worked for four years at Mission in Phoenix, said, “With UNITE we will now have the dignity and respect on the job that we deserve. We have stood together through this struggle and won. This is a great victory for all of us and our families.”

The laundry workers, mostly immigrant women, staged a militant and colorful month-long organizing drive with weekly caravans to the largest industrial customers of the laundry.

Gloria Ramirez, who has worked for 14 years at Mission in Phoenix, said, “We have been struggling for better wages and working conditions and now with UNITE we will be able to achieve those goals. We have won the justice that all Mission laundry workers deserve.”

Raul Grijalva, who is seeking the Democratic nomintion for Arizona’s newly created 7th Congressional District, hailed the victory in Phoenix and pledged Tucson community support for the workers and their families. More than 50 union and community supporters rallied in Tucson prior to the vote.

Brian Flagg, from the Casa Maria Catholic Worker collective, spoke of the hundreds of people, including over 300 families, that line up each and every day at his soup kitchen. “If workers like these women can’t get justice through a union contract,” he said, “our soup line will just get longer.”

UNITE recently negotiated groundbreaking contracts for Mission Linen laundry workers throughout California. The contracts raise wage rates, improve health and safety conditions, and secure the right of non-English speaking workers to have the translator of their choice when needed. UNITE, which represents over 40,000 laundry workers in the United States, also negotiated to expedite union representation elections for non-union workers at Mission in Phoenix.

Mission Linen is an industrial launderer and linen supplier headquartered in Santa Barbara, Calif. Mission also has laundry facilities in California, Oregon, Texas and New Mexico.

The author can be reached at stelnik@webtv.net

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