ST. LOUIS — “We have lots of health and safety issues within our plant,” Yvonne Wolcott, a laundry worker, told over 200 people attending the second national Jobs with Justice Workers Rights Board hearing held here Sept. 22.

The hearing focused on the union UNITE-HERE’s campaign to organize Angelica Corporation, the largest health care laundry services company in the United States.

“Power dumping” is one of the biggest problems in the soil department where she works, Wolcott said. “Power dumping is when they unload dirty linen at such a speed that the workers can’t keep up and the soiled linen bins overflow and dirty linen, soaked with blood and other body fluids, start to pile up on the floor.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has found Angelica guilty of numerous health and safety violations. On Aug. 31, OSHA issued citations to Angelica’s Batavia, N.Y., plant, where Wolcott works, for dozens of job safety and health standard violations and proposed penalties exceeding $140,000. Earlier in the year, OSHA proposed nearly $64,000 in fines at two Angelica plants in California.

OSHA has also charged Angelica with “willful violation,” its most stringent citation. In some cases, work surfaces were visibly contaminated with blood and other potentially infectious materials. According to OSHA, “Soiled laundry was thrown and/or placed on the walking surface on the soil sort conveyer line. Employees routinely stepped in feces or other human waste as a result.”

OSHA also charges Angelica with not having a written cleaning schedule, leaving surfaces to be cleaned sporadically — if at all.

Nationally, UNITE-HERE, which represents laundry, apparel, and hospitality workers, has filed over 70 unfair labor practice complaints with the NLRB, charging Angelica with threatening plant closures, withholding information, spying on workers and suspending or terminating pro-union workers.

Nery Jimenez, an Angelica employee in Durham, N.C., demanded that Angelica respect the workers’ right to organize under a fair and neutral process. Jimenez said, “When we started organizing a union, management responded with forced meetings, intimidation, and more pressure.”

UNITE-HERE estimates that Angelica is willing to spend over $1 million to break their organizing campaign. Chad Gray, a UNITE-HERE organizer, told the World, “This isn’t just a worker issue. This is a community issue. What affects these workers, also affects our communities. We are united and the Angelica employees will get the dignity and respect they deserve.”

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