Time to Clean Up Industrial Laundries

The city’s industrial laundries are a source of jobs for many Latinos in the New York area. However, work and hygiene conditions in those places are not exactly spotless.

A recent report revealed that most laundries are a public health hazard. Of 50 businesses, only five had received some sort of certification.

In those businesses, where bed linen and textiles are cleaned up, it is not rare to find dirty laundry containing dangerous residues and pollutants, even though those clothes are used in hospitals, hotels and restaurants. Add to this the dismal conditions faced daily by the laundries’ employees. We have heard testimonies of workers whose patrons don not even provide them with gloves and masks. Even worse, they are exposed to direct contact with toxic substances.

Seeking a solution to this problem, the City Council is currently debating a bill called CLEAN Act which is supported by workers, unions and activists.

The Clean Act would require the Department of Consumer Affairs to regulate those laundries, as well as the companies managing the trucks that carry the clothing to and from hotels, restaurants, hospitals and other businesses. The legislation includes better work conditions for the industry’s workers, as well as a wage increase.

We support the initiative of councilmen Ritchie Torres and Dan Garodnick. It’s an action that appeals to common sense. If we go to a restaurant we want to be reassured that the napkin we are using is really clean.

It is also necessary to guarantee a healthy and safe environment for the industry’s employees, whose work rights need to be respected. The CLEAN Act debate is on the table. We hope the Council will pass it.