Expensive Lesson

130 cities across the country have something called the “living wage” ordinance meaning that certain government contractors must pay wages that meet the “livable standards” of the community.

Hayward, California is one such city with a living wage. The ordinance, passed in 1999, is as follows:

In April, the Hayward City Council approved the Hayward Living Wage Ordinance which provided that a living wage be paid to direct employees of the City of Hayward, as well as employees of certain firms contracting with the city for at least $25,000. The living wage is set at no less than $9.41 an hour if health benefits are paid to the employees, or $10.86 per hour if no such benefits are paid. (06/05) The wage will be upwardly adjusted annually in accordance with the area cost of living calculation. The contracted service categories covered under the policy are: automotive repair and maintenance, facility and building maintenance, janitorial and custodial, landscaping, laundry services, temporary personnel, pest control, security services, and social service agencies. The ordinance entitles covered workers to a minimum of 12 paid days off and 5 uncompensated days off per year. The ordinance also allows for the terms of a collective bargaining agreement to provide that said agreement may supersede the requirements of the living wage ordinance upon mutual agreement by both parties (Alameda County Central Labor Council, Hayward Democratic Club).

Unfortunately, the CINTAS Corporation did not believe that the ordinance applied to them and now they are over a million dollars poorer for it.

Specifically, Cintas argued it should not have to pay employees who worked on the contract a living wage for hours that they did not spend on the city contract. The lawsuit was filed in 2003 and was certified as a class action on behalf of 219 people who had worked in either of the two laundries from 1999 to 2003. The court found for the workers and the civil judgement amounted to $805,000 in back wages and $300,000 in interest plus attorney’s fees.

CINTAS will probably appeal. But even if the decision is reversed, the company still has many more battles ahead as the Teamsters have their eyes on CINTAS. And publicity like this doesn’t help.

A very expensive lesson.

5 Replies to “Expensive Lesson”

  1. I worked at cintas location 646 Marianna Fl. for almost two years. In that time I never took but two days off. Monday the 20th I ask for Wednesday the 22nd off and the boss promptly told me to come in his office and shut the door. First he said nobody comes in on Monday and asks for a Wednesday off and wanted to know the reason. I told him I needed to take care of some personal business. The job I had was a sanis route which they had started about ten months ago. He told me there was no one to run the route because no one else there could work the machine. Then he went on to say that he was told he better keep his nose to the ground because I was getting ready to quit. He then said if this was the way I felt maybe it was best if we just parted ways right then. I told him I did not know where he got that all I wanted was one day off. I averaged over fifty hours a week and was the only one there who had to go to a five day work week. He went on to tell me who told him so I told him yes I was looking to start my own business but it was a ways off and I would let him know if I got close so he could find a replacement for me. I still did not get the day off, but it bothered me so much the fact that I had already lost one weeks earned vacation because of the job and now I just ask for one day off that on Thursday the 24th I walked in and told the secretary I quit. It was the happiest day of my life. Anyone who intends to go to work for Cintas had best be ware and ask workers their opinion in a sly way first. The company to me is built on lies and very deceptive practices to get the young and stupid to work for it. The particular site location I worked for only has thirteen employs and since I hired on we have gone through 28 people and now I make 29. A family oriented company it is not, work friendly enviroment not, respectfull to its employs not, and now I just heard they dropped all SSR’s pay by one hundred dollars. Most are looking to quit now and only one person has been there longer than me.
    Respectfully Submitted
    Harold Isaacs

  2. I know how you feel. I worked at Cintas loc 390 for four years and received nothing but accolades and praise…. until I began to question certain ethical issues, then alot of things changed. I went to work for a competitor, but not until I had fully researched the legalities involoved. But evidently, even though in the state of colorado non-compete contracts are void, (COLORADO STATE STATUTE 8-2-113: see at ) they are still threatening and harrassing me along with spreading lies. The sad thing is, they are probably going to get away with it. I can only do so much through the courts, but I will do it to the best of my ability. Down with the “Evil Empire”!

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