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More car washes join the RWDSU

Stephon Johnson | 10/24/2013, 4:06 p.m.

Last week, over the span of 24 hours, four car washes signed contracts with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Workers at Webster Car Wash and WCA Car Wash (aka Rico Pobre) in the Bronx and the Jomar Car Wash and Sutphin Car Wash in Queens ratified three-year contracts (similar to contracts two other union car washes ratified earlier this year) to join the union. Webster Car Wash and WCA Car Wash are owned by John Lage, who owns more than 20 car washes in New York City, and Jomar Car Wash and Sutphin Car Wash are owned by Fernando Magalhaes. Lage and Magalhaes partner on some of the car washes they own in the five boroughs.

Included in the union contract is a bump in minimum wage to $9.18 an hour, a protection of workers’ access to overtime, paid vacation and sick days, a required schedule displayed in advance and bonus pay for major holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving.

RWSDU President Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement that this is yet another win for the workers’ rights movement not only in the local car wash industry, but in other similarly paying industries around the city.

“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 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.”

Appelbaum’s union and WASH New York, a joint effort between Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change that’s supported by the RWDSU, had already scored several victories by winning seven National Labor Relations Board-conducted elections to unionize car washes around the city. Some of those victories include securing union deals at Hi-Tek Car Wash and Sunny Day Car Wash and saving the jobs of workers at Soho Car Wash.

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 in a statement. Rosales 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, who has been an employee at Sutphin Car Wash for seven years, echoed similar sentiments.

“I’m so happy and grateful to God for letting me fight in this struggle,” said Cruz in a statement. “The contract shows that hardworking 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.”

Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change, hopes the change in labor-management relationships continues to side with union ratification.

“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 Westin in a statement. “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.”