En EspaƱol Know Your Rights
Source: Daily News
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Workers at two city car washes sign union contracts

Workers at two Queens carwashes who voted to unionize now have contracts — promising better pay and holiday bonuses.

Immigrant workers — who call themselves “carwasheros” — and management at Jomar Car Wash on Main St. in Flushing and Sutphin Car Wash on Sutphin Blvd. in Jamaica signed the contracts this week.

The locations are the third and fourth washes in the city to get contracts after voting to join the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union.

Three-year deals at each Queens car wash mandate a series of raises, a set schedule with a minimum of 40 hours a week, a paid 30-minute break, and five paid days off, to take as vacation or sick days. They also include bonuses on Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years Day, Easter and Labor Day.

“Really, this is something we have been working towards for a long time,” said Patricio Santiago, 40, who has been doing detail work at Jomar Car Wash for ten years.

He currently makes $6.15 an hour plus tips, and said he is looking forward to the contract-mandated raise and the state minimum wage hike going into effect on Jan. 1, which will bring his pay to $8.46 an hour.

“We need to work many hours to support our families. It’s important to have a secure job. For me, the most important benefit is to have a paid day off,” said Santiago, who is originally from the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

“I hope that within three years, all of us carwasheros can be united so that others can have this as well.”

Jomar and Sutphin carwash workers currently earn a base rate of $5.50 an hour plus tips. By 2015, they will get a base rate of $7.03 — adding up to an average of $9.18 an hour with tips.

Owners at both locations failed to return requests for comment.

The contracts came after a lengthy campaign — backed by the union and led by nonprofit organizations Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change — to document and improve conditions for New York City car wash employees.

Seven city car washes have voted to unionize. And more — Webster Carwash and WCA Car Wash, both in the Bronx — also signed contracts on Wednesday evening.

“If you look at these carwasheros, they put a lot at risk,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum.

“They are cleaning up the car wash industry by insuring that workers are treated with dignity and have a voice on the job. What a powerful message that is for all low-wage workers in New York City.”

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