8:44 pm, 03/05/2012
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It’s not always cool at the car wash, after all, and The New York Times reports that it’s often the boss, not employees, who are allowed to act the fool.
Unionization efforts are now underway at some of New York City’s 200 car wash operations:
“We’re all ready to fight for our rights and have a dignified place to work, and not to be abused like we are today,” (car wash employee Adan) Nicolas said.
Many of the workers are illegal immigrants who might be unwilling to speak out for fear of being fired or drawing the attention of the immigration authorities.
The organizing coalition, called Wash New York, interviewed 89 carwash workers at dozens of carwashes around New York City and found that about two-thirds of them said at times they made less than the state-mandated minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
The typical schedule was at least a 60-hour workweek, but a majority received no overtime pay above 40 hours, as required by law. Those who received overtime pay often made less than the mandated rate of time-and-a-half, the coalition said. Rest and lunch breaks were fleeting and unpaid, many said.
Not a single worker in the survey reported receiving paid sick days, and only one said he had been offered a health care plan, the organizers said.
Employees also claim that they are not provided with adequate protections and training for handling dangerous chemicals, some of which can burn holes through workers’ clothing.
WASH New York’s investigation mirrors an earlier state investigation of the industry:
Wash New York’s assessment of the industry dovetails with the findings of a state investigation in 2008.
Sixty inspectors visited 84 carwashes across the state and reported $6.5 million in underpayments to 1,380 workers.
About 80 percent of the carwashes in New York City had violated minimum wage and overtime laws, the officials found.
WASH New York’s Deborah Axt told WFUV that the campaign will allow workers to speak up. “The primary and first goal of our campaign,” she said, “is to make sure that the employees of these car washes, who are the only ones in a position really to blow the whistle on abuses and on unsafe conditions feel that it is safe to come forward.”
Small print: We salute WFUV’s “Report: NYC Car Wash Workers Get Hosed” headline and greatly prefer Rose Royce’s original version of Car Wash.
This excellent song is also worthy of a full embed:
From Los Jornaleros del Norte: This song is dedicated to Santiago, a carwash worker leader who was fired and beaten up for trying to organize his co-workers. Prior to the beating, Santiago had been approached by his employer whom offered him better wages in exchange for him to stop organizing his coworkers. Santiago rejected the offer and lived up to his principles. The song encourages carwasheros to overcome their fears and continue to organize for dignity, respect, and for better wages and working conditions. If Gandhi, King and Chávez were alive, they would be fighting alongside the carwasheros, the song says.