Bronx Car Wash Workers say “YES UNION!”
October 23, 2012 9:28 am
Efforts to organize New York City’s 200 or so carwashes gained steam this weekend, with Webster Car Wash in the Bronx becoming the second unionized car wash in the city. Workers voted 23-5 to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
Webster Car Wash is owned by Lage Management Corporation, a company that owns dozens of NYC car washes. Lage has been the subject of an array of lawsuits and investigations into alleged wage and hour violations, and is under investigation by the office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has admirably focused on targeting wage theft. Steven Greenhouse reports on the ongoing investigations. From the New York Times:
The company, headed by John Lage, agreed to pay $3.4 million in back wages and damages in 2009 to 1,187 current and former employees to settle a lawsuit accusing it of many wage violations.
The NY Daily News reported on worker reaction to the affirmative vote, and confirmed that wages are still in the doldrums at the Bronx business:
“The bosses will respect us better now, and see us as people,” said worker Francisco Lopez, 37.
The Salvadoran immigrant, who has been working at Webster Car Wash for a year, said he makes $6 an hour and doesn’t always earn enough in tips to take home minimum wage.
Last month, workers at Astoria Car Wash and Hi-Tek 10 Minute Lube Inc. in Queens became the first unionized carwasheros in the city. The efforts to organize the city’s 5,000 carwash workers are being coordinated by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and two non-profits, Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change (NYCC).
Stuart Applebaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union spoke about the victory:
These brave workers stood up to their employer, like David slaying Goliath.
The NYC organizing efforts are attempting to improve the lives of mostly immigrant car wash workers, two-thirds of whom reported being paid less than minimum wage. A survey of car wash workers at 200 NYC locations also reported that many car wash workers labor 60 hours per week, with some working as many as 105 hours per week — but a whopping 75% of them have never received overtime pay.
Organizers hope that with the success of recent organizing efforts in Los Angeles – which began in 2008 and have flourished, with 60 carwashes operating under union contracts to date – a proliferation of unionized carwashes will follow.
Image from here