Carwasheros, MRNY’s Deborah Axt, Stuart Appelbaum, President of the RWDSU, and Rocio Valerio, Deputy Director of NYCC join Mayor de Blasio as he signs the Car Wash Accountability Act
Wage theft has been rampant in the carwash industry for decades, with many car washworkers, or carwasheros, receiving illegally low wages and no overtime pay despite working as many as 70 or 80 hours a week. Despite repeated enforcement efforts by the New York and United States Departments of Labor, wage theft has persisted as a standard practice in the industry. Make the Road attorneys estimate that a typical carwash is likely to owe a least hundreds of thousands of dollars to its current and past employees in unpaid wages.
On June 29, 2015, Mayor de Blasio signed the Car Wash Accountability Act, just ten days after the historic legislation overwhelmingly passed in the City Council!
The Car Wash Accountability Act, sponsored by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, will help clean up the carwash industry and protect workers. It requires all of New York City’s approximately 200 car washes to be licensed and regulated to help prevent wage theft and environmental abuses. It also requires car washes to post a surety bond to insure workers’ wages.
For more than three years, Wash New York, a collaboration of Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change — with support from the RWDSU — has been organizing with car washworkers.
Since Wash New York was launched, nine shops in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx have won contracts that improve wages, guarantee workers overtime and include many worker protections and benefits, including fair scheduling, paid personal days and protections against wage theft. The campaign has also helped over 1,000 workers win well over $4,500,000 in back wages and other damages and penalties. (Read this New York Times profile on our very own organizer, Modesta Toribio).
There’s still much to be done but the passage of theCar Wash Accountability Act is a big step forward for workers’ rights!