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New York City's 'carwasheroes'

Stuart Applebaum President | , Rwdsu | 12/20/2012, 3:25 p.m.
At Hi-Tek Car Wash, sending a message of change to low-wage workers

In December, employees at Sunny Day Car Wash in the Bronx became the fifth group of car wash workers in New York City to vote to join the RWDSU. It's the latest action that is part of a growing movement of "carwasheroes"--as members of the largely Latino workforce are known--to reclaim their jobs and change their lives.

Workers at Sunny Day have been on strike since Nov. 11, when they were fired for refusing to report to work after having not been paid for nearly three weeks. They have been out on strike ever since, picketing in front of Sunny Day and demanding to get their jobs back and have their union voice recognized. The workers at Sunny Day and the other recently unionized car washes in New York City are an inspiration for all New Yorkers who are tired of the growing disparity of wealth in our country. They are not just fighting for their own rights. They are standing up for the growing number of working people struggling to rise out of poverty.

The Sunny Day carwasheros are showing low-wage workers across the city that they don't have to sit back and take it. They are at the forefront of a movement, fighting to change their jobs--where they work long hours with offensive chemicals in extreme temperatures for as low as $5.50 per hour--into safer and better-paying work.

Recent Census Bureau data reveals an astounding statistic: In New York City, 1.7 million people--or 21 percent of the population--are currently living below the federal poverty line.

It's a tragedy, it's a moral outrage and it's bad for our society. As we celebrate the holidays, there are those among us who are unable to take a holiday from the struggle just to survive and provide for their families. We need to commit ourselves to creating a more just society that raises standards for everyone. By working to increase the minimum wage and promote responsible redevelopment, and by supporting working-class heroes like New York City's wash workers, we can ensure that future holidays are truly a time of celebration for all of us.