Workers at the Webster & ‘Rico Pobre’ car washes in the Bronx today walked off their jobs to protest ongoing harassment and retaliation from store managers who, they said, routinely subject have not responded to their demands for improvements in health and safety conditions.
The workers at the Webster Car Wash and the WCA Car Wash (aka Rico Pobre), joined community members, Make the Road NY, New York Communities for Change (NYCC) and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) to demand that the owner John Lage stop the harassment of workers and address health and safety concerns at both car washes. “These courageous ‘carwasheros’ at Webster & ‘Rico Pobre’ voted within the last year to join our union and have been harassed and threatened ever since,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. “We deplore the unfair, harsh and anti-union actions this owner used. These workers want basic respect and dignity on the job.”
The workers at Webster Car Wash voted to join the RWDSU last October and the WCA employees did the same in July 2013. Seven car washes have voted to join the RWDSU in the more than 18 months since NYCC and Make the Road launched the Wash NY campaign with support from the RWDSU. Workers at four car washes have successfully bargained contracts with the owners.
During the protests, which took place at Webster at 11 a.m., and at WCA at 3 p.m., workers and community allies handed out flyers urging motorists to take their business elsewhere because the owner has “targeted the union’s representatives, and punished workers by changing rules in retaliation for supporting the union.”
Ernesto Salazar, 39, from El Salvador said he and his co-workers has are walking out “because we are tired of the tyranny and abuse from management. Since we’ve joined the union, Lage and his management have put in place unjust rules that violate our rights as workers. We have tried addressing these new rules, in addition to our concerns with health and safety at the workplace, but there has been no satisfactory response. We are demanding that Lage sit with the union and negotiate a fair contract that will protect our rights.”
Milton Munoz, 30, from Mexico, said he has been working at CWA Car Wash less than a year, and has been a target of reprisals because of his support for the union.
“With the union, we have tried addressing our issues with Lage directly, but he has only given us the run-around. We know that with this protest and the support of the community we can get fair proposals from Lage at the bargaining table, and sign a fair contract that will guarantee our basic rights,” Munoz added.