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Bronx Sunny Day Car Wash signs union contract with workers

Stephon Johnson | 6/20/2013, 3:46 p.m. | Updated on 6/25/2013, 3:46 p.m.

Ending a 13-week strike, workers at Sunny Day Car Wash in the Bronx ratified a three-year contract on June 4 in another victory for the WASH New York campaign.

WASH New York, a joint effort between organizations Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change, which is supported by the RWDSU, led the workers in a strike over failed payments by Sunny Day. It’s the second car wash to sign a union deal with its workers.

“It feels great to accomplish something that we thought was impossible and to show everyone that we won,” said Sunny Day worker Jamie Morales, a native of Mexico. “Once again we demonstrated ‘si se puede!’ [‘Yes we can’].”

“I feel like we won what many deemed impossible,” added fellow Sunny Day worker Juan Campis.

As part of the deal, workers will see an immediate increase of 28 cents per hour. That raised the workers’ minimum wage to $7.53 an hour, including tips. Three more raises over the contract’s life will eventually bring the minimum to $9.18 an hour. Workers will have a set 40-hours-a-week schedule with overtime doled out equally; a shop steward must supervise the counting of tips; layoffs must be done by seniority; workers receive five paid days a year and two personal days; and workers have the right to take leave to attend a family member’s funeral, their wedding, the birth of their children or attend to immigration issues.

“We congratulate these ‘carwasheros’ for their courage in this fight,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of RWDSU. “This contract sends a powerful message to other car wash and low-wage workers throughout New York City: You can fight back against poor wages and working conditions, and you can win by joining the RWDSU.”

The WASH New York campaign was launched in 2012 to fight mistreatment in the local car wash industry. Last September, Hi-Tek car wash workers became the first location in the city to vote to unionize. Since the campaign launched, the RWDSU has won six National Labor Relations Board-conducted elections to unionize car washes around New York City.

Deb Axt, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, didn’t have many expectations when the WASH New York campaign began last year, but she’s presently surprised by the progress.

“We congratulate the workers at Sunny Day—and those before them at Hi-Tek—on their victories, and we know these contracts will become a blueprint for the car wash industry in New York,” said Axt in a statement.

“For the second time in less than two weeks, the courage and bravery of the ‘carwasheros’ has resulted in a union contract that will not only boost their wages, but give them greater security and a measure of workplace justice,” added Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change. “It is truly amazing and shows what can be accomplished when workers band together for the greater good.”