Queens Car Wash Workers Demand Fair Contract

Workers at the Sutphin Car Wash in Jamaica joined with community leaders on Saturday to demand that Sutphin owners Fernando Magalhaes and John Lage negotiate a fair union contract. Today’s action comes on the heels of recent contract victories at Sunny Day Car Wash in the Bronx and Hi-Tek Car Wash & Lube in Queens through the WASH New York campaign, which is a joint effort between Make the Road New York (MRNY) and New York Communities for Change (NYCC), and supported by the RWDSU.

Last November, Sutphin Car Wash workers won a union election and joined the RWDSU. They are in the process of negotiating a contract but the owner, Fernando Magalhaes, has not shown much willingness to negotiate a fair contract. Magalhaes and his associate, John Lage, together own the biggest chain of car washes in NYC. The Wash New York campaign and the RWDSU decry the unfair, harsh and anti-union proposals which Lage and Magalhaes have made at the bargaining table.

David de la Cruz, a worker at Sutphin for more than 7 years, said: “We’re holding this protest today because Fernando [Magalhaes] is playing games with us. The workers at Sutphin Car Wash won a union election and now we want him to sign a fair contract. Maybe he doesn’t understand that we’re united and we’re not going to give up until we have a fair contract, because that’s the only way for us to make sure that we have justice on the job and the basic rights we deserve.”

“The old way of doing business at these establishments are over.  Car wash workers across the city have had enough and are fighting back against abusive conditions,” RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said. “Sutphin workers are asking for basic respect and dignity on the job, and the will continue to support them – whether it be at the negotiation table or the picket line — as they stand up for a better future for their families.”

Sutphin, along with LMC Webster Car Wash in the Bronx and Jomar Car Wash in Queens, are owned by Lage. In a recent report, Lage, in 2009, was forced to pay $3.4 million to workers for back pay and damages after a federal lawsuit.  Lage, who is by far the largest car wash owner in New York City, owning 23 car washes in the metropolitan area, is under investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s office for serious allegations of wage-and-hour violations.

Caption: Sutphin Car Wash workers joined with RWDSU, Make the Road NY and NY Communities for Change organizers to demand that owners agree to a fair contract.

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