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Pallone Leads Call for Adequate Health and Safety Protections for Laundry Workers in Perth Amboy

December 1, 2020
Press Release

Long Branch, NJ – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Senator Joseph Vitale, Speaker Craig Coughlin, and Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez today sent a letter to Unitex/Med-Apparel Services, Inc. demanding that the company uphold safety standards to protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The workers clean linens for hospitals in New Jersey and New York. The workers held a rally on September 29 to demand stronger protections during the pandemic and went on strike on November 18 and 19 to protest the company’s alleged unfair labor practices.

 “We write with concern regarding reports on the lack of adequate health and safety protections for essential workers at your Perth Amboy, New Jersey, facility. We are also troubled by reports that Med-Apparel Services, Inc. and its parent company, Unitex, are attempting to use workers’ pension funds as a bargaining chip before the company will give its employees the modest wage increases it has proposed, and that Unitex/Med-Apparel flatly refuses to commit to implementing COVID-19 safety reforms. We urge you to immediately return to good-faith negotiations with these workers and their union and to uphold critical COVID-19 safety standards in your Perth Amboy facility,” the lawmakers wrote.

“We're grateful for the support from Congressman Pallone in this important fight for justice for essential workers. Our members are essential laundry workers, and they have stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic, facing significant health risks to keep many New Jersey hospitals and nursing homes safe. These brave and dedicated workers will not accept intimidation, illegal threats, or unreasonable concessions from Unitex,” said Alberto Arroyo, Co-Manager of the Laundry, Distribution, and Food Service Joint Board, Workers United/SEIU, and a top union official negotiating on behalf of the Perth Amboy Unitex employees. “It's time for Unitex, a wealthy corporation, to deliver the fair new union contract our members have earned. For us and our members, a fair new union contract must include COVID-19 protections, modest wage increases, and continuation of pension benefits for current and future employees.”

“We're glad to have Congressman Pallone on our side as we fight for a fair new union contract. We're essential workers, and we deserve to be treated much better by our employer Unitex. I have dedicated years of my life to this job. It’s hard work cleaning and processing gowns, sheets, and other linens for hospitals and nursing homes in New Jersey,” Brígida Vidal, a worker at the Perth Amboy facility said. “But I am proud to help keep many of New Jersey's health care facilities clean and safe every day, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the years, my co-workers and I have helped Unitex become a very wealthy and successful company. But instead of treating us fairly, Unitex recently forced us to strike after they illegally threatened us and tried to intimidate us into accepting a bad contract. We won't stop fighting until we win the fair new union contract we deserve.”

A copy of the letter is available here.