The Business School’s choice of where to send its laundry has come under fire recently for supporting unjust labor practices. Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality is pressuring the University to reconsider its contract with the Toledo branch of Morgan Linen, the laundry service for the Business School’s Executive Residence.

Workers at the branch still struggle to negotiate a desirable contract with the company. Their jobs – which often require them to work under uncomfortable conditions – are difficult and low-paying, according to workers’ written statements. Moreover, their employer is attempting to revoke their only defense: their union, UNITE!.

Louis Green, head of ethical purchasing for the University, said when he was approached by SOLE members, he immediately met with the group to address their concerns.

“We take ethical standards very seriously,” Green said. “We don’t always get involved, and we don’t always take sides. Where we tend to get involved is when standards violate the fabric of University values,” Green said.

Green said he believes that Morgan Linen’s standards commit such a violation.

After meeting with SOLE, Green phoned Morgan Linen to share his concerns and hear the company’s perspective. President Jack Bigler responded in a lengthy e-mail. In it, he said workers themselves “had delivered a petition to the National Labor Relations Board requesting an election to determine whether UNITE! should continue to represent the bargaining unit.”

“Under the law,” Bigler said, “Members have the right to be represented by a union of their choice. They also have the right not to be represented by a union. I believe in protecting the rights of Morgan members.”

A member of SOLE, who requested not to be named, said that with these and other statements in the e-mail Bigler took none of the worker’s vital concerns into consideration.

The SOLE member said the pressing question is not whether enough workers want to get rid of the union; rather, it is why the workers’ demands are not being met.

Workers have been without a contract for the past six months. Their demands include a cap on insurance costs – which are $35 per week and rising – a raise to make insurance affordable, sick pay and an end to what union officials said are illegal attempts to halt workers’ unionization.

Morgan Linen took several strong steps recently to prevent workers from demanding these rights, according to UNITE! business manager Karen Burnett and Morgan Linen employee Othella Johnson.

Bigler printed a newspaper advertisement to hire 150 new applicants should current employees strike, Burnett said. Johnson said in a written statement that Bigler ripped up surveys she was circulating to workers regarding a new contract.

Recent events, such as a second meeting yesterday between University officials and SOLE members, suggest that conditions at Morgan Linen will finally improve, Green said. During his conversation with Bigler, he said, the company president offered visitation rights to University faculty and students should they desire to investigate the situation first-hand.

Green said he plans to propose this visit at a meeting on labor standards tomorrow.

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