The Register reports on UNITE’s efforts to protect Cintas workers from corrosive chemicals:

Under the new rule, leased-and-laundered rags would be granted an official exemption from “hazardous” waste status, but must be sealed up during transport from clients to the laundry. A hearing on the proposed rule last week at EPA drew all interested parties. The Uniform & Textile Service Association, which represents lease-and-launder businesses, backs the rule, as do multiple printing lobbies and the automotive industry. The Sierra Club and the Environmental Technology Council both argued that the rule has no teeth.

Among the hearing’s witnesses was Mark Fragola of New Haven, a former Cintas driver who collected soiled rags and distributed clean ones out of Branford from 1999 until April 2002. During his tenure, Fragola contracted a fungal infection in his sinuses that led to two separate surgeries and the loss of his sense of smell. Doctors attributed the condition to irritation by solvent fumes, coupled with exposure to airborne funguses that wafted from used restaurant and bar rags. At Cintas, “The word ‘solvent’ never came up as far as I’m concerned,” Fragola said.

Along with Fragola, DeLauro and UNITE representative Eric Frumin urged stricter regulation, saying that the proposed rule is fraught with loopholes.

Yet another reason why these workers need a union.

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