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E-M:/ Tell the EPA: Laundry Workers Deserve to be Safe from Toxic Chemicals

Title: Message
Environmentalists and labor unionists have far more in common than in opposition.  Michigan environmental and labor groups have been meeting to figure out ways to better coordinate our efforts.  Here is one example of an issue that impacts both communities - toxic chemicals in the workplace. . . .
-----Original Message-----
From: Jobs with Justice National [mailto:jwjnational@jwj.org]
Subject: Tell the EPA: Laundry Workers Deserve Safe Working Conditions

Tell the EPA: Laundry Workers Deserve Protection from Toxic Chemicals

 How would you feel if unbeknownst to you, you were exposed to dangerous toxins at work? What if your employer had known all along? These aren’t hypothetical questions at industrial laundries like Cintas, where many workers are not given the proper training and protective gear to deal safely with their exposure to toxins and solvents on towels and rags. The EPA is considering a draft rule that would permanently exempt toxic-laden industrial "shop towels"—chemical solvent rags—from federal hazardous and solid waste regulations.

Tell the EPA that workers deserve protection from toxic chemicals at: http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/LaundryEPA/gs7g8sr9dd85m

This proposed rule has serious repercussions for workers, as well as the environment. If approved, the rule would enable industrial laundries to allow their workers to transport and launder shop towels full of solvents and other toxins, without proper training, handling, labeling and disposal requirements. It's time to tell the EPA that workers and the environment come first and to adopt meaningful protections for them. Make your voice heard today—comments must be received by April 9, 2004.

ACT NOW AT: http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/LaundryEPA/gs7g8sr9dd85m

At a hearing before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Mark Fragola testified that he learned first-hand how toxic his job was as a driver for Cintas Corp., when he contracted a serious fungus infection that required two major surgeries. Mark lost his sense of smell and incurred substantial debts from his medical bills. He didn’t have to.

Workers like Mark deserve to work in a safe and healthy environment. It’s one important reason workers cite for wanting to form a union. In fact, workers at Cintas plants across the country are fighting for better on-the-job protections through their efforts to unionize. Unfortunately, Cintas is opposing workers' efforts to organize. The National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency charged with protecting certain worker rights, has issued a complaint alleging that Cintas committed multiple violations of federal labor laws, including firing workers for engaging in union organizing activities.

It may come as no surprise that Cintas, the nation’s top industrial laundry, has an atrocious environmental and health and safety record—having repeatedly been cited for violations of environmental laws and for more than 140 violations of OSHA standards. Now Cintas and other industrial laundry giants are lobbying for weakened regulations with the EPA that will leave laundry workers with even less protections for their safety and health. Until Cintas workers get their voice, they'll need people like us to stand up with them for better working conditions.


Send a letter to the following decision maker(s):
Environmental Protection Agency

Below is the sample letter:

Subject: Please put workers and the environment first

Dear [decision maker name automatically inserted here],

Attention Docket ID Number RCRA-2003-0004

All Americans should be protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work. That is why I urge you to provide real protections for workers, the environment and communities and not to approve your proposed regulation for managing solvent-contaminated industrial wipes.

I am extremely concerned that your new draft regulations fail to protect frontline workers who are exposed to dangerous solvents on industrial wipes and towels. The solvents and toxins contained on wipes pose serious health risks, especially for the laundry workers and drivers who have to carry wet wipes in cloth bags and open containers without proper safeguards. If approved, the new regulations would enable industrial laundries to:

- Store and transport contaminated towels in cloth bags or other containers that fail to protect workers or prevent leaks.
- Neglect protective measures like adequate labeling of containers, training workers who handle wipes, or routine recordkeeping by facilities that generate the toxins.
- Send dirty towels for "washing" without first removing excess solvents, allowing additional tons of toxins to spread into local sewage plants, rivers and lakes.

The EPA should issue a revised proposal that takes the necessary precautions to protect workers and our natural resources. Please consider this an official comment. I understand that it may be placed on your public website.

Thank you for your consideration.


Megan Owens

Take Action!

Click here to take action on this issue

Visit the web address below to tell your friends about this.

What's At Stake:

Read Mark Fragola's story here.


Campaign Expiration Date:
April 10, 2004

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