December 13, 2013
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—The City Council Committee on Civil Service and Labor held a second hearing this afternoon to discuss the merits of the Car Wash Accountability Act. Before the hearing, elected officials, car wash workers and union members held a rally on City Hall’s steps to urge the Council to pass the bill; they say that the lack of regulation in the city’s car wash industry is harming workers, the environment and communities. Watch Video of Presser
According to several car wash workers, or carwasheros, car wash facilities used to transfer dirty wastewater and sludge into containers that would be picked up by a private contractor for proper disposal. But the workers say they are now being told by their bosses to simply pour the sludge and dirty wastewater down into the city’s sewer system, contributing to environmental hazards for both workers and nearby residential neighborhoods.
Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, a member of the Civil Service and Labor committee and lead sponsor of the bill, said it’s time for the city to start monitoring the industry of over 200 car washes.
“This bill is going to regulate this industry. It’s incredible to know that car washes have very little regulations. Not only are they driving down wages and creating adverse working conditions, but they’re also harming the environment,” said Mark-Viverito
She said the legislation would ensure that car washes must be licensed from the Department of Consumer Affairs to conduct business in the city. The bill also calls for car washes to post a surety bond and owners would face high penalties as much as $15,000 for violations.
In an interview, David Mertz of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, the union that has organized seven car washes and won six union contracts with better wages since the organizing campaign began two years ago, said the act would bring much needed change to the industry.
“The sludge is supposed to be filtered properly, but what we’re hearing is that this is not happening. It’s something all New Yorkers should be concerned about. The act would help rein in an industry that otherwise has been operating without any regulations,” said Mertz.