(CN) – Cintas plants in North Carolina and Connecticut interfered with unionizing efforts and discriminated against union workers, the 8th Circuit ruled.
As the nation’s largest employer in the industrial laundry business, Cintas makes workplace uniforms in nearly 400 factories in the United States and Canada.
UNITE HERE, a union seeking to represent Cintas workers, filed unfair labor charges against the company, based on what it viewed as Cintas’ suppressive reaction to union support in factories in Charlotte, N.C., and Branford, Conn.
Employees in the Charlotte factory were disciplined for wearing pro-union stickers and a hat, the union claimed, while employees were allowed to wear other items that purportedly violated the dress code, including a colorful scarf and decorative pins.
The union stickers said “Uniform Justice!” and “Farmer has BILLIONS. We want just $1.” (Cintas was founded by Richard T. Farmer, whose son, Scott Farmer, became CEO in 2003.)
At the Branford plant, union employees sent letters to Cintas customers complaining that Cintas had not provided gear to protect workers from toxic chemicals on the uniforms.
Cintas fought the unfair labor charges, claiming UNITE HERE’s national organizing campaign was illegal.
But the National Labor Relations Board, siding with the union, found Cintas in violation of federal labor law.
The St. Louis-based 8th Circuit affirmed on appeal.
“Testimony that employees regularly disobeyed the dress code policy without consequence supports the [board’s] conclusion that the employees disciplined for wearing pro-union stickers and a union hat were singled out because of their union sympathies,” Judge Diana Murphy wrote for the panel decision.
The court also rejected Cintas’ challenge to the union’s national organizing campaign, saying Cintas passed up the opportunity to file unfair labor charges against the union.
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