Cintas workers protest poverty wages

DETROIT – “We want a living wage!” shouted 100 people conducting an informational picket line and rally at the Cintas industrial laundry plant here July 31. The line included workers from the plant, members of United Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) Local 129. The Detroit facility is one of the few organized Cintas facilities in the country.

Cintas, which made $290 million in profits last year, has offered the workers an 85-cent raise over three years. Since the average wage is $6.60 an hour, most workers will still be below a living wage. The company has also proposed some takeaways in the workers’ health insurance. A UNITE organizer estimated that Cintas made $10,000 profit from each worker at the Detroit laundry and therefore “can easily afford to pay its workers a living wage.”

UNITE has launched a nationwide campaign to organize workers at Cintas, which is the largest supplier of industrial uniforms in the U.S. and Canada.

Unions represented at the rally included UAW, Teamsters, SEIU, Machinists, IBEW, PACE, Operating Engineers, Newspaper Guild, and Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO. Community support came from Gray Panthers, Pax Christi, ACORN, Jobs With Justice, and St. Leo Roman Catholic Church, which is across the street from the plant.

A representative of Teamsters Local 51, which represents the Detroit plant’s drivers, pointed out that Teamsters International President James Hoffa has thrown the full support of the Teamsters behind the drive to organize these workers across the country and will stand with the Detroit laundry workers.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org