Victory for Car Wash Workers
- New York 10/17/2013 by RWDSU, Communities United for Change, Make the Road New York (WBAI)

– In the space of 24 hours, four car washes – two of which are
owned by two of the largest car wash owners in the city -- signed
contracts with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Workers at the Webster Car Wash and WCA Car Wash (*aka Rico Pobre*) in The
Bronx, owned by reputed car wash kingpin John Lage, and the Jomar Car Wash
and Sutphin Car Wash in Queens, owned by Fernando Magalhaes have ratified a
three-year contract similar to two other union carwashes ratified within
the last few months. Lage is an industry leader and reportedly owns more
than 20 car washes in New York City and partners with Magalhaes in some of
them.

"These cashwasheros stood up and demanded dignity and respect on the
job. And now they have achieved a first contract that will improve wages
and benefits,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum.  “This contract sends
a powerful message to all low wage workers throughout New York City: You
can fight back against poor wages and working conditions, and you can win.

Workers at the four car washes were ecstatic over their new contracts.

"I feel very happy because we have finally reached the contract that we
fought so hard for," said Luis Rosales, who has worked at Jomar for more
than five years after coming to the U.S. from Mexico. This is going to be a
great change for our car wash. More importantly we were able to show other
workers that it makes sense to fight and win what seemed impossible."****

David Cruz, 43, who has worked at Sutphin Car Wash for seven years,
said: "I'm so happy and grateful to God for letting me fight in this
struggle. The contract shows that hard-working people like us can fight for
their rights and for respect. I want to especially thank the organizers for
supporting us all the way and making us feel that united we could get the
changes we deserved.

Ernesto Salazar, 38, who works at Webster Car Wash and is originally from
El Salvador, said: “I am very happy that we achieved our objective. All the
sacrifices and fights were well worth it. Now we will validate our rights
under the contract at work. We will no longer be treated without dignity,
now the bosses have to respect us. We hope to serve as an example to other
carwasheros. Si se puedo!

Omar Pineda, 35, a worker from WCA/Rico Pobre Car Wash said: “I was
transferred here after Sixth Ave/Soho Car Wash was closed earlier this
year. I feel super happy and proud of our struggle. It has not been easy,
but with the courage of all the workers, we succeeded. From now on, we have
to serve as an example to other carwasheros. We have to show them, that
just we have our contract, they can as well.” ****


Highlights of the 3-year deal include:
  - An immediate wage increase upon signage with three more raises over
   the life of the contract will bring workers to a minimum of $9.18 an hour.

  - Protects workers' access to overtime.

  - The contract also protects immigrant workers, expands protections
   against discrimination, increases job security by requiring layoffs to be
   done by seniority, and requires that a shop steward supervise the counting
   and distribution of tips.

   - Starting next year, workers will get five paid days a year and two
   personal days, in addition to the right to take leave to attend a family
   member’s funeral, their wedding, the birth of their children and to attend
   to immigration issues.

   - The employer must have just cause to fire a worker and establishes a
   grievance procedure and binding third party arbitration.

   - Workers will have a schedule posted each week, with hours and overtime
   distributed fairly and equally among the workers.

   - Workers will also receive holiday bonuses for Christmas, Thanksgiving,
   New Years Day, Easter and  Labor Day****

There are some 200 car washes in New York City, with an estimated 5,000
employees, mostly immigrants who are paid low wages and too often denied
overtime, to which they are entitled by law. "This campaign has turned a
major corner," said Deb Axt, co-executive director of Make the Road New
York.

“These car washes are owned by two of the biggest players in the industry,
and contracts at these carwashes begin to set a new industry standard.
Congratulations to the workers and the RWDSU.

"We congratulate the courageous carwasheros for successfully negotiating
and signing contracts that will put more money in their pockets, improve
working conditions, allow them to have paid holidays they can enjoy with
their families and ensure them the basic rights and dignity every worker
deserves," said Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities
for Change. "This means the RWDSU now has contracts at six car washes
across the city. We look forward to achieving even more in the weeks and
months ahead as we continue to create workplace justice in the entire car
wash industry in New York.

 

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