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Elana Levin

Elana Levin

Posted: August 1, 2008 03:47 PM

Wal-Mart and Cintas Campaign Against Pro-worker Legislation


Today's WSJ shows just how important the Employee Free Choice Act [EFCA]is to creating a more equal America and addressing corporate power -- Wal-Mart and Cintas are fighting to stop this legislation which would help protect workers who want to unionize. EFCA is a key part of making jobs safer and fixing the income inequality crisis.

I've written on Daily Kos about Cintas, a company that has violated employees' rights under federal labor law and supported weaker regulation of hazardous solvents.

Now Cintas is trying to affect who their employees support in Congress in the interest of promoting their corporate agenda. The Cintas Votes website asks employees to lobby members of congress against the Employee Free Choice Act. Given the stories we've heard from workers it is hard to imagine why someone would turn to Cintas or Wal-Mart for political guidance (union gal makes this point well). However, when you consider the power employers can exercise over their employees in non-union situations and the new big budget anti-EFCA TV ad campaign that the corporate lobby is funding, we all need to do our part to speak truth to power.

Cintas' political website aimed at their employees lists how members of congress voted on legislation that the company supports. It is interesting what legislation Cintas favors: the repeal of the estate tax and passing the Peru Free Trade Act -- not exactly a populist agenda, am I right people?

Cintas spokeswoman Heather Trainer says in the WSJ article,

We feel it's important that our employee partners fully understand the implications that the Employee Free Choice Act could have on their work environment and benefits,

But government statistics show that workers who join a union have better healthcare and pensions and earn 27% more than their non-union equivalents. Union workers also are more likely to stand up for safer jobs.

Cintas and Wal-Mart aren't the only companies funding this attack on pro-worker legislation (from the WSJ)

Business-backed organizations are also running ads aimed at building opposition to the bill, including the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, which counts several hundred industry associations as members. Another group, the Employee Freedom Action Committee, is run by former tobacco lobbyist Rick Berman. The groups, which aren't affiliated with each other, say they have a total of $50 million in funding. Neither will disclose which companies or individuals have provided funding.

In addition to this website, Cintas executives have poured tons of money into the GOP and into anti-EFCA organizations like Newt Gingrich's American Solutions for Winning the Future.

American Rights at Work has a page exposing the well-funded anti-union network (when multi-national corporations are your constituency it is easy to get money)

All of this legislative conflict plays out in very real ways in the lives of Cintas workers. So keep an eye on UNITE HERE's diaries about the Painful Truth Tour.

Follow Elana Levin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/workersunited