Religions delegations document troubling conditions faced by laundry employees
Sweatshop labor isn't just a nasty side note happening in faraway place like Guatemala or Indonesia. It's going on right here in the United States, delegates from the NICWJ found as they visited plants run by the industrial laundry company Cintas in six different cities. From Chicago to San Jose, CA to Rochester, NY, NICWJ discovered similar heinous conditions and heard stories of the workers, most of whom were immigrant, Latino, and African American females. Their eight-page report, called Airing Dirty Laundry: A Report on Cintas Worker Concerns, is available on www.nicwj.org and was released Wednesday, June 23, during a press conference in Cincinnati.
Worker complaints included in the NICWJ report include: 'not being paid for all hours worked, unsafe working conditions, racial and sexual discrimination, arbitrary and unfair disciplinary policies, and company harassment of workers interested in unions.' Sister Barbara Pfarr, a nun who took part in the delegation to check on worker conditions at Cintas, had this to say about the exploited workers: 'Every one of them kept working -- quickly -- and never slowed down to look up, comment to a neighbor or give any recognition that strangers had just invaded their workplace.' According to the NICWJ report, 'Their stifling workplace had no amenities -- no drinking water, no toilet tissue or soap in the rest room. The important thing was keeping a job and keeping the boss happy.'
Just as appalling, Cintas won't even acknowledge the powerful
report. 'Cintas' refusal to meet with faith leaders to share the
company's side of the story, or open a dialog, is worrisome. It is
only fair that we hear from Cintas, but company officials refused
to meet delegations in Long Island, N.Y., Branford, Conn., Chicago,
San Leandro, Calif., San Jose, Calif., and Rochester, N.Y. We are
here today because Cintas reneged on a promise to meet with us at
their company headquarters outside the city,' said Kim Bobo,
National Interfaith Committee executive director.
-- Jacob Wheeler
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