According to the labor union Unite Here, the coalition – a nationwide effort – is comprised of former and current Cintas employees dedicated to cleaning up the hazards at the company's 400 facilities in the United States and Canada.
Torres-Gomez was killed when he fell into an industrial dryer at a Cintas laundry facility in Tulsa, Okla. While clearing a jam on a conveyor that carries the laundry from the washer into the dryer, he became trapped in the operating dryer for 20 minutes while temperatures soared to 300 F. Prior to this incident, another worker at the company's Yakima, Wash., facility shattered his left arm while loading an industrial washer. Other violations were also found in Ohio, California and Alabama.
After Torres-Gomez's death, OSHA slapped Cintas with a historic $2.8 million fine after inspecting the plant, charging that plant management "ignored safety and health rules that could have prevented the death."
To avoid future fatalities, workers at the Cintas's Illinois laundry said they alerted OSHA to the same kinds of dangers that led to Torres-Gomez's death. According to Unite Here, OSHA began investigating the Bedford Park, Ill., facility the week of March 3.
“One year after our coworker was killed, we should not have the same dangerous conditions in our plant that led to his tragic death,” said Gregorio Delgado, who works in the Bedford Park laundry. “In addition to unsafe machinery, the pressure we are under to meet our quotas is so high that we are working in pain everyday.”
Cintas Files Lawsuit Against Unions
Cintas, however, is fighting back. The company filed a federal lawsuit against Unite Here and the International Brotherhood of Teamster, accusing the two unions of an “extortion scheme” and of violating federal and state racketeering laws in their 5-year "corporate campaign" to win exclusive bargaining rights for its employees.
The lawsuit consolidates information in a defamation suit filed four years ago by Cintas against the unions.
In response to the lawsuit, Unite Here claimed that it was "a continuation of the company's attempts to harass, bully and repress all who want to help workers gain better jobs and better lives."
“Cintas could easily fix these problems, but the company would rather fight workers with appeals and lawsuits than provide lifesaving protections,” said Unite Here Executive Vice President Noel Beasley. “The 450,000 working families of Unite Here will continue standing with Cintas workers until the company’s policies put safety, family and dignity above its greed.”