Sunday, August 31, 2003

Supervised elections

Cintas: Labor target

Textile workers union UNITE has recruited the Teamsters and AFL-CIO to make Cintas, Cincinnati's homegrown uniform giant, the next big target of organized labor. UNITE's New York-based President Bruce Raynor makes no secret of his aim to "break the back of this employer."

Cintas is the uniform industry leader, with 27,000 mostly non-unionized employees nationwide. About 700 of Cintas' 17,000 hourly workers are represented by unions. Organizing them would deliver millions of dollars in union dues to UNITE which has lost more than 30,000 members in the last five years, as textile industries moved offshore. UNITE hopes to unionize Cintas by pressuring the company to agree to a simple "card check" method of signing up workers. Then if union organizers can get 51 percent of the workers to check yes on the cards, the union is authorized to bargain for that unit no matter how the other 49 percent feel. Cintas Vice Chairman Robert Kohlhepp insists the company's workers should have the final say whether they want a union, and if so, they have a right to make that decision in a government-supervised secret-ballot election.

Card check authorization of a union is a quick-hit sign-up method vulnerable to fraud, forgery or threat. We would never tolerate it as a method to elect a U.S. president, and workers should not be obliged to join a union by such a system. If Cintas workers want to be represented by UNITE, and that remains a big IF, they should be able to make that choice in a secret-ballot election monitored by the government.

Altoona-based employees of Warnaco have filed charges that card-check authorization of UNITE as their exclusive bargaining representative was tainted, and 60 percent of workers at that plant signed a petition that they never signed the authorization cards.

Teamsters President James Hoffa and AFL-CIO president John J. Sweeney committed to lead a rally tomorrow at the unions' annual Labor Day picnic here at Coney. The union heavyweights are here to help rev up their campaign against Cintas. Cintas is only the unions' latest target. They've been nipping at retail goliath Wal-Mart for four years. Raynor claims Cintas is the pariah of the industry, although Fortune Magazine ranked it as one of "America's Most Admired Companies" and Forbes rated it one the best global companies.

Cintas responds to the charges on its Web site (www.cintas-corp.com) . UNITE's Web site: (www.UNITEUnion.org) .

Workers at any of Cintas' 365 facilities in North America know the truth. They should be able to freely vote that truth in secret-ballot elections overseen by the government.

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