The Nation Profiles MRNY’s Car Wash Worker Victories

This week we celebrate a historic moment in workplace justice. For the first time anywhere east of Los Angeles, car wash workers ratified a union contract at Astoria Car Wash & Hi-Tek 10 Minute Lube in Queens. This contract is an enormous victory for the Hi-Tek workers and their union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, and shows how even the lowest-wage industries can be transformed when courageous workers and communities stand up for basic human dignity.

The Hi-Tek contract will serve as a blueprint for the car wash industry in New York City - and could help transform the industry nationally. It raises workers' wages, provides paid sick and personal days, protects immigrant workers from discrimination, and will ensure fair scheduling in an industry notorious for unpredictable hours and pay.

Read more in "MRNY: Success Through Love and Agitation," and watch the video about why Make the Road is a transformative hub of community organizing:

Writing for The Nation, long-time grassroots organizer Jane McAlevey describes how our car wash campaign "represents a bigger, smarter evolution" of what MRNY and our partners began a decade ago, when we started organizing workers along Knickerbocker Avenue retail strip in Brooklyn.

With New York Communities for Change and the support of the RWDSU, we've created a successful, replicable model: in our campaign's very first year, already 6 car washes have voted to unionize; we've won a successful strike at the Sunny Day Car Wash in the Bronx; we've saved the jobs of workers at the Soho Car Wash; and we've improved workplace safety conditions at car washes across the city.

Omar Gomez (left): "It fills me with satisfaction to know that the workers who come after me will have a union contract guaranteeing them a better quality of life."

Heriberto Hernandez (2nd from right): "I will be proud to tell my children that I was part of this campaign."

For NYC's 5,000 car wash employees, having a union contract is one of the strongest tools to ensure employers pay legally mandated wages and overtime and guarantee decent, safe working conditions. Our survey last year found that 2/3 of car wash employees were paid less than the minimum wage and 75% were not paid the overtime required by law. Workers also report frequent, serious health problems from exposure to the harsh chemicals they must handle and breathe daily.

MRNY and our 12,600 members support businesses that respect labor laws and do right by their employees. We invite you to join us Monday 11am-5pm to get your car washed at Astoria Car Wash & Hi-Tek 10 Minute Lube, the day the contract goes into effect [insert address]. Help us celebrate both the workers and business owners for being the first unionized car wash on the east coast.

Read more in The Nation and thank you for supporting the carwasheros! http://www.thenation.com/article/174474/love-and-agitation

-Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director

 

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