Despite the intended purpose of car washes, many car wash operators conduct a very dirty business. The New York State Department of Labor investigators found that nearly 80% of NYC’s car wash operators are guilty of wage and hour violations. There’s an exploited workforce of around 5,000 employees for the almost 200 car washes throughout the five boroughs. Working anywhere from 60 to 80 hours a week, overtime is practically non-existent for a majority of these minimum-wage or below-minimum-wage employees. And we haven’t even touched upon the many work-related hazards that employees are exposed to or what actually happens with the money in the tip jar in many cases.
Car wash employees, regardless of their legal status, want and deserve dignity and respect on the job, which includes improvements in wages and benefits and safer working conditions. To date, four different car wash employees’ have voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and more than 20 car washes are involved with the campaign. The owner of two of the newly unionized car washes has been forced to pay $3.4 million in back pay and damages to workers from 2009 after a federal lawsuit.
And this is only the beginning. Last Monday, Melissa and Senator Gustavo Rivera joined car wash workers at Sunny Day Car Wash in the Bronx, to confront the owner and protest outside. Sunny Day workers staged a previous walkout earlier in November after not getting paid for two weeks and were all subsequently fired – that is when they contacted the RWDSU.
We support the carwasheros in finding the courage to collectively take action. They will no longer be silenced.
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