Striking Bronx car wash workers returned to their jobs Monday after winning a fight against the boss they say wrongly fired them.
Although Monday’s driving rain meant workers at the Sunny Day Car Wash tended to only a trickle of cars, they said they were happy to be back on the job after three months on strike.
“It feels so good to come back to work,” said Nelson Aquino, 27, who has worked drying off cars at Sunny Day for a year. “It feels really good – after all that was said – he had to give us back our jobs.”
Workers claimed Frank Roman, the car wash owner, hadn’t paid the employees the $5.50 to $7.25 an hour he owed them for three weeks.
A dozen workers, known as “carwasheros,” staged a walk out Nov. 11 at the car wash near the Third Avenue Bridge in protest.
“We used to work, and we didn’t get paid on time,” Aquino said. “Or, sometimes our checks would bounce. That’s when we decided that we’d go on strike.”
Roman responded by firing them.
But, backed by community organizations like Make the Road New York, and the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, the carwasheros spent months demonstrating outside the business, demanding their jobs back and back pay.
The strike came to a head late last year when local politicians confronted a manager at the car wash about the firing. Roman also tried to keep the demonstrating carwasheros 50 feet from Sunny Day, but a Bronx Supreme Court justice denied his request for a temporary restraining order.
The National Labor Relations Board negotiated with Roman to get the employees back to work.
“It was really hard,” said Maria Gonzales, an organizer with New York Communities for Change, which helped the carwasheros in their jobs fight. “They didn’t have any money. They didn’t have a job. But they always kept up their strong spirit.”
“This is a day we’ve been waiting for.”
Roman, the owner of Sunny Day Car Wash, did not return a call for comment Monday.
Investigators from the NLRB are pursuing recovering the carwasheros’ back pay for the time they were let go, according to Karen Fernbach, regional director for the National Labor Relations Board.
Rocio Valero, a community organizer for New York Communities for Change, said the group would continue to monitor Roman.
“The owner definitely knows that he is being watched,” Valero said outside the car wash. “We hope he does the right thing.”
Back at Sunny Day, the carwasheros said they were buoyed by their win.
“We feel great, because basically we won against the boss,” said Juan Campis, 20, who worked at the car wash for only three months before he was fired.
“A lot of the time, they can do whatever they want. But it’s not like that anymore. The workers fought back.”