Starbucks hit for Cintas contract

Across the country last week, upscale coffee company Starbucks felt the heat for contracting with union-buster Cintas Corp. to launder aprons, mats and linens. Cintas has been cited repeatedly for breaking the law by discriminating, dumping untreated wastewater, and violating labor law.

The Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE!), which is organizing at all 300 Cintas plants, rallied outside Starbucks in many cities calling on the company to stop doing business with Cintas until they sign a union contract with the workers. Starbucks has long claimed to be a socially responsible business. Their mission statement says they “embrace diversity … buy, sell and use environmentally friendly products … and treat each other with dignity and respect.”

Hundreds of delegates to the New Jersey State AFL-CIO legislative conference rallied at Starbucks’ boardwalk stores in Atlantic City. In New Haven, Conn., the unions at Yale were among labor and community supporters to join with Cintas workers across the street from the campus Starbucks, as passing cars honked in solidarity. One week earlier, the Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution calling on Starbucks to end their contract with Cintas until the workers are treated fairly.

Cintas is under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for violating federal health and safety standards and endangering workers’ lives. Two Cintas workers have died because of illegal and unsafe working conditions. Cintas is also under investigation for over 100 violations of federal labor law, including illegally firing and retaliating against pro-union employees. In April, a national class action lawsuit was filed alleging that Cintas has failed to pay its delivery drivers overtime.

The author can be reached at joelle.fishman@pobox.com