July 14, 2013
By Marc Bussanich
Bronx, NY—Elected officials, clergy, community groups and union organizers stood with car wash workers on Saturday outside the Wash and Lube car wash in the Bronx owned by car wash chain owner John Lage to demand he improve working conditions and pay higher wages. Watch Video
One car washero who has been working in the industry for 13 years is earning only $6.15 an hour. In an interview he said because his base pay is too low a 40-hour work week isn’t enough to provide for his family.
“It’s very difficult to survive on such a low salary because prices of everything keep going up, but yet wages haven’t gone up. It’s very difficult. That’s why we are unionizing.”
Since the launch of the WASH NY campaign last year, which is supported by community groups and organized labor, car washeros have been taking similar actions throughout New York City. For the first time in the city’s history, car wash workers organized a union at the Hi-Tek Car Wash & Lube in Queens last year where they won a three-year contract that includes five paid sick days, a raise in the base wage and a grievance procedure that allows them representation by a union representative for any discipline issues.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, the union that represents the workers in Queens and the Sunny Day Car Wash in the Bronx, also owned by Mr. Lage, said that Mr. Lage has to begin negotiating in good faith.
“It is time for Mr. Lage to understand that these workers demand a contract. There are now contracts in two other car washes in New York City, the only car wash contracts east of Los Angeles, and he has to understand that car washeros in New York demand to have a fair and just contract,” said Appelbaum.
Back in April, the WASH NY campaign, in collaboration with Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, Center for Popular Democracy and the RWDSU, released a report claiming that despite labor violations, Mr. Lage has contracts with city agencies such as the NYPD and Department of Housing Preservation and Development worth $234,525 and $75,000, respectively, between 2007 and 2013.
Despite workers voting for a contract at Mr. Lage’s facilities, an organizer with New York Communities for Change said he is being obstinate during contract negotiations, arguing for an open shop and the right to petition workers to determine their loyalty to the union so he could initiate decertification elections.
The 13-year car wash worker who is currently earning $6.15 an hour said he hopes to follow in the footsteps of his fellow car wash workers at Hi-Tek Car Wash & Lube.
“We want to be represented by the union so that we can have better job security. Currently, if the owner doesn’t like me he can just fire me at any point. If we have representation, it won’t be like that anymore.”
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