Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday June 29, 2006
During the latest NASCAR races at Pocono Raceway and Lowe's Motor Speedway, a group known as UNITE HERE had been gathering fan support in an effort to save stock car racing as we know it. Reports indicate that UNITE HERE was able to garner a petition with just over 20,000 fan signatures. Of course, this begs a simple question…why?
On the surface, a petition like that sounds like a good thing to get behind and support if there’s evidence to back it up. I mean, after all, whom amongst racing fans wants to see their favorite sport at risk of going down in flames?
Let’s look at the details here. In order to save our sport from “permanent damage,” UNITE HERE is sending a fan signed petition to NASCAR, calling for NASCAR to end its 10 year relationship with Cintas Corporation, the nation's largest uniform supplier. Why pick on Cintas? One simple reason; Richard Farmer.
Richard Farmer is the founder and Chairman of Cintas. Farmer is also a late entry into the ownership group of Kentucky Speedway, LLC. In July of 2005, Kentucky Speedway filed an antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR and its conjoined twin, International Speedway Corporation (ISC).
In a nutshell, Kentucky Speedway wants NASCAR to open up a bidding process to determine which tracks get dates to host a NASCAR Nextel Cup event, yada, yada, yada. This lawsuit is old news to most NASCAR fans and little has been heard about it after its initial filing and brief status as “current news.” Considering the state of today's legal system, and the amount of money at NASCAR's disposal for high priced lawyers, heaven only knows how long the whole thing will be bogged down in the system. If NASCAR is the symbol of speed, anything lawyerly is the exact opposite.
At any rate, on the surface, one might possibly see the connection that is presented by UNITE HERE, deem it worthy, and decide to support “the cause” in the interest of the sport. That would be your prerogative, and not something that would be my place to suggest you do or don't do. However, I do want you to know the facts, and I will tell you just exactly who UNITE HERE is and what they are REALLY after.
UNITE HERE is the merger of two labor unions, formerly known as the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union. They merged in July of 2004.
UNITE HERE is extremely worried that if the Kentucky Speedway lawsuit is successful, several communities may lose race dates, as well as the local economic impact that goes with them to some other city with deeper pockets that can bid higher for said race date. They are so concerned that they have set up a web site, www.thetracksuit.info, just so you can sign their petition and save racing. The petition reads as follows:
"WE, the undersigned, oppose the Kentucky Speedway’s lawsuit against NASCAR."
"WE believe this lawsuit could force our race to be moved, harming our community and thousands of loyal NASCAR fans."
"WE object to the Cintas Corporation being a NASCAR sponsor while its founder and Chairman Richard Farmer is a co-owner of the Kentucky Speedway."
"WE, the undersigned, call on NASCAR to end its relationship with the Kentucky Speedway and the Cintas Corporation until the lawsuit is withdrawn."
Also, at that particular website, among other things, is a link to the official UNITE HERE website. If you click on that and do a little reading, you might begin to see that there may be a hidden agenda other than the well being of your racing entertainment…
From www.unitehere.org :
- The union represents more than 450,000 active members and more than 400,000 retirees throughout North America.
- UNITE HERE boasts a diverse membership, comprised largely of immigrants and including high percentages of African-American, Latino, and Asian-American workers. The majority of UNITE HERE members are women.
Our Top Priority
- Organizing the unorganized in our industries is the top priority for UNITE HERE. Over 50% of the new Union's national budget will go toward organizing. Current major organizing campaigns are underway at Cintas, Hilton, H&M, and the gaming industry. In the past five years, the two unions have organized more than 100,000 new members.
Whoa! Back up the train here! Over half of their national budget will go toward “organizing the unorganized.” Major organizing campaign underway at Cintas!? Well now, that puts a little different light on things!
I had a few questions that I wanted to ask UNITE HERE, so I fired them off to their press contact in an effort to hear their side of things. I got no response. Since they have elected not to respond to my inquiries, I will list them here and give you my take on the whole situation.
What is your main goal behind your campaign for NASCAR to dump Cintas?
My Take: They are trying to put pressure on Farmer to unionize Cintas or risk losing one of its major clients; NASCAR. If Farmer gives up resistance to unionization of his company, how much you want to bet that UNITE HERE would back off on its signature campaign?
If NASCAR were to discontinue their relationship with Cintas, how would it affect the employees of Cintas?
My Take: Obviously, without NASCAR's business, hundreds if not thousands of Cintas employees would be negatively affected. Punishment, if you will, for resistance.
If UNITE HERE is, on the one hand, trying to unionize Cintas employees, or provide security and better conditions for Cintas workers, and on the other hand trying to persuade a major Cintas client (NASCAR) to dump them, doesn't that harm the very workers you are trying to protect?
My Take: Just goes to show you that the welfare of the workers just might not be the top priority here.
Why were the races at Lowe's Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway chosen in particular by your organization at which to gather signatures for your current petition?
My Take: LMS and Pocono are NOT owned by ISC! UNITE HERE knows that there is not a danger of an ISC track losing a date. In essence, they are trying to scare those communities in danger, and the fans that frequent events at them. Personally, I don't think UNITE HERE itself believes the Kentucky lawsuit has any merit, and is just using it as a tool to further their signature gathering efforts. If that is not the case, then why don't they set up shop at an ISC track? Actually, when you think about it, their actions say a lot about the validity of the lawsuit and the antitrust practices of NASCAR and ISC. I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that the next race you see them at is the New England 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway.
Were fans who were asked to sign the petition made aware of the fact that UNITE HERE is actively trying to unionize Cintas?
My Take: No! If you signed or were asked to sign and I am wrong, PLEASE write and let me know.
What approximate percentage of UNITE HERE's membership that took part in the signature gathering at the tracks were representative of your "diverse" membership? (Assuming those at the tracks were members.)
My Take: All the press pictures and news videos at www.thetracksuit.info show only Caucasian young men and women. Where is the majority of immigrants and ethic groups this union says makes up its membership? The sad reality is that NASCAR fans are probably more apt to sign a petition presented by the group that was used. (Don't be mad at me if reality offends you, I'm just stating the way things are.)
What does it matter to UNITE HERE where a NASCAR event is held, seeing as wherever an event is held, it would benefit those workers that you primarily represent in ANY given area?
My Take: I'll admit that I am a little perplexed by their strategy on this. Wherever NASCAR goes, the primary membership of the union and the jobs they represent are going to be needed. So why do they care what tracks get a date? Just glossed over the fact that the average fan out to have a good time at the track doesn't think about, mainly due to the fact that they probably aren't told that UNITE HERE's ultimate goal is to unionize Cintas.
Are these particular actions that have been taken by UNITE HERE a direct attempt to put pressure on Cintas to unionize or risk losing NASCAR as a specific client?
My Take: It’s the latter, but you, the fan, aren't supposed to know that, since most of the signees did not even know that UNITE HERE was a Labor Union and not a concerned group of fans as they appear to be. It's called marketing…know your target audience, and tell them just enough to get them to do what you want. UNITE HERE does that perfectly.
Those were my questions to UNITE HERE that they chose not to respond to.
Now, before I get all sorts of hate mail saying I'm anti-union and all that garbage, let me be perfectly clear on this point; THIS ARTICLE IS NOT ABOUT WORKERS RIGHTS OR WHETHER ANYONE SHOULD UNIONIZE OR NOT! IT IS SOLELY INTENDED TO LET YOU KNOW WHO THIS GROUP IS AND WHAT THEIR REAL AGENDA IS ALL ABOUT AND THE TACTICS THEY WILL USE TO ACHIEVE IT.
If you want to sign their petition, that is up to you!
Stay off the wall (yeah, like that's possible in a plate race!),
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