John Lage announced Feb. 1 that the SoHo location would close in three weeks; he hasn’t responded to demands from workers and activists that he give them jobs at one of his 23 other car washes.
“John Lage, respect your workers,” read a sign carried by one of the nearly 50 workers and union members who rallied Wednesday morning outside Lage Car Wash Inc., in SoHo.
They were protesting the sudden decision by the owner, John Lage, a true industry kingpin, to close the car wash and leave 19 hard-working men without jobs.
“He has never told us he had sold the property and would close the business,” said Juan Carlos Rivera, 26, the man who carried the sign asking for respect. “He doesn’t have enough courage to face us, or what?”
After seven years working at Lage Car Wash, Inc., the Salvadoran-born Rivera is making all of $6 an hour — not even minimum wage.
“I have worked here since I arrived in New York in 2006,” Rivera said. “I was making $5.50 but when I got involved with the union campaign he began to pay me 50 cents more an hour.”
Lage’s decision to close was made public a little over two months after the Nov. 21 elections in which these workers overwhelmingly voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
Deborah Axt, of the activist group Make the Road New York, says that even though the union and workers found out just a few days ago that Lage sold the business to a developer who plans to demolish it, he actually knew about the plan since September.
“These guys are going to be fired in two weeks,” Axt said. “Lage not saying anything for so long doesn’t make any sense.”
If there is any potential good news for the workers, is that Lage owns more than 20 car washes in the New York area and could rehire them if he wanted to.
“The not-so-good news,” Axt said, “is that he hasn’t responded to our demands that they are given jobs in some of the businesses he owns.”
On Feb. 1 Lage’s lawyers notified RWDSU that the car wash was closing in about three weeks.
No prior notice was given to the workers, the union, or Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change, which are partners with RWDSU in the Wash NY Coalition, formed to bring fair conditions to the car wash industry.
The demands by workers and the union that Lage put these men to work in any other of his businesses got an important endorsement on Wednesday.
“With the announced closure of Lage Car Wash’s SoHo location, I hope that they will behave like any good New York business owner and place the workers at one of their other 23 locations throughout the city,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn in a written statement.
“The only thing we want is to make enough to live on,” said Rivera, who has a 2-year-old girl and a newborn baby boy. “What we want is for our jobs to be given back to us.”
Lage has made tons of money on the backs of his hardworking employees. Now he should show them some respect and give their jobs back to them.
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