Sept. 28, 2005 – In what is thought to be the first case of its kind, a California judge last Friday ordered one of the worldâ€™s largest laundry goods suppliers to pay over $1 million to settle a claim brought by its Haywood employees under the cityâ€™s living wage ordinance. UNITE HERE, the union representing the workers, termed the ruling "historic" and vowed to continue its battle to force the company, Cintas, to abide by living wage laws.
"This is a huge victory for Cintas workers in Northern California, with powerful implications for their co-workers all over North America," UNITE HERE President Bruce Raynor said in a press statement. "This case exemplifies how Cintas treats workers: They disregard the wage and hour laws, which are the bedrock responsibilities a company has to its workers."
The union has been fighting to organize workers with the laundry giant for over a year, winning a series of court battles over wages and work conditions along the way.
Last weekâ€™s ruling by Superior Court Judge Stephen Brick held that Haywardâ€™s living wage law, which requires companies doing business with the city to pay employees $10.71 an hour or $9.26 if they provide health insurance, is constitutional.
Over the past two years, workers filed separate suits alleging that Cintas was paying wages two dollars or more below the cityâ€™s living wage, according to information provided by UNITE HERE. Judge Brick certified 219 of the cases as a class-action suit last year.
Cintas maintains that it did not knowingly violate the law. Company spokesperson Pam Lowe told the San Francisco Chronicle that Brickâ€™s ruling "points to the ambiguity and confusion that existed as to the interpretation and application of the ordinance, even on the part of the city of Hayward."
The judgment ordered the company to pay $1.1 million in back wages.