Car Wash Workers Strike for Overdue Pay and Recognition
November 19, 2012
Twelve car wash workers at the Sunny Day Car Wash in the Bronx were working for two weeks without pay. Last Sunday, they decided that they had had enough of the owner’s recalcitrance and went on strike Monday morning. The owner, Frank Roman, retaliated by firing all 12 workers. The workers reached out to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which has been mobilizing support for the workers.
Joining and supporting the striking workers on the picket line were union leaders, community groups and elected officials. State Senator Gustavo Rivera said in an interview, “I’m here to be supportive of the workers at this car wash. I think it is one of the industries that requires organizing more than anywhere else. I believe that organized action is the only way to be able to get fair conditions, and I’m proud to support them.”
The union recently won elections at the Hi-Tek Car Wash in Astoria, Queens and the Webster Avenue Car Wash in the Bronx, and on Wednesday, November 21, the NLRB will be administering two more elections.
Joseph Dorismond, a RWDSU organizer, said that there are about 3,000 workers in the car wash industry in New York working long hours and earning less than the state-mandated minimum wage of $7.25.
“Some of the workers have been working in the industry for 15 years working 70 hour weeks and still not getting enough to earn a decent living. Wewant the workers to have job security, fair pay and benefits,” said Dorismond.
Liz Vladeck, an attorney with the employment law firm of Cary Kane LLP, which is representing the fired workers, said that the owner filed with the Bronx Supreme Court seeking an injunction against the workers picketing outside the car wash.
“The judged explained she didn’t grant the injunction because she doesn’t have jurisdiction over a labor dispute. The judge asked the owner why a restraining order should be granted. The owner said that the picketing was disrupting his business, whereby the judge replied, ‘The workers have the right to picket. It’s their First Amendment right to protest against their firing, no pay and for union recognition.’”
“Under Section 807 of the state’s Taylor Law, picketing and striking cannot be enjoined unless extraordinary circumstances prevail, such as the police agreeing that the situation is tenuous. Barring these circumstances the judge cannot involve herself in a labor dispute,” said Vladeck.
Showing solidarity with the workers was Bob Master, CWA’s political and legislative director. He told the picketing workers that his own union took on the 10th biggest corporation in the country.
“Last August, we shut down Verizon. We can shut the Sunny Day Car Wash as well. It doesn’t matter if you work for a giant corporation like Verizon or General Motors. Wherever you work, every worker deserves dignity, fairness and justice.”
In an interview Master noted that the union negotiated a very good contract under very tough circumstances.
“The industry has changed very dramatically and we negotiated in the context of many workers having to pay for health care. We forced them to back down on almost all of their concessionary demands and our members overwhelmingly ratified the contract. So we feel that we held our own, which in this day and age is a big victory,” Master said.