Sometimes corporate America’s actions shock me more than last week’s episode of "Lost." For instance, consider the two-faced positions Cintas and one of its subsidiaries have taken on the Employee Free Choice Act.
Cintas, the uniform rental and laundry giant, has been one of the most aggressive anti-free choice act employers around. Bad-mouthing the bill was a central theme in its "Cintas Votes" program. Workers endured anti-free choice videos and received misleading information about the (hopefully) law-to-be. Tampa Cintas worker Jimmy Thorton said that management "showed us videos trying to persuade us to vote differently than we were."
More than that, the NLRB has found Cintas maintained an unlawful policy prohibiting workers from discussing the terms and conditions of their employment, interrogated workers about their union activities, and discriminated against workers’ protected activity. The company has either closed union shops or ran the union out of laundries acquired through buy-outs.
Given this record, it’s stunning that Cintas subsidiary Brookfield Uniform recently announced its support for the Act. In a letter to the National Association of Letter Carriers, Brookfield’s General Manager wrote:
Brookfield Uniforms supports the labor movement’s continued efforts to ensure that hard working men and women achieve the pay, healthcare, and retirement they deserve—and that their families need—particularly in today’s difficult economy. Across the country, union members are coming together to support landmark legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make union membership more readily accessible to millions of individuals.
But what the letter doesn’t say is that Brookfield—whose workers are union members—makes postal uniforms, and postal workers have insisted that their uniforms be union made. Brookfield’s letter is a response to a blistering article by NALC President William H. Young accusing Cintas of having the chutzpah to sell to hundreds of thousands of union members only to attack their unions and the labor movement. It seems that a Cintas company can sing a different tune on workers rights when its business depends on it.
Thanks to President Young and the letter carriers for their continued show of solidarity. It’s heartening to know that the labor movement has Cintas workers’ back. The real fight is now on to ensure that Cintas workers—and all workers—get to have a voice on the job.