Major Breakthrough in Campaign to Organize Car Washes – First Contract Ratified

Workers (above) at the Hi-Tek Car Wash & Lube in Queens have made history by voting to ratify the first union contract of any car wash in New York City. The three-year contract caps the workers’ 10-month campaign for union by the RWDSU. This is the first car wash contract in the United States anywhere east of Los Angeles.

It was a major victory for the workers and significant turning point for the WASH New York campaign, a joint effort between Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change and supported by the RWDSU.

The campaign was launched last year to fight widespread mistreatment in the car wash industry. In September 2012, Hi-Tek workers became the first location in NYC to vote to unionize in an effort to improve their working conditions.

“I feel very happy that the union has signed a contract with our employer which guarantees a higher salary and respect for workers,” said Colombian native Omar Gomez, an oil change worker at Hi-Tek Car Wash for 23 years. “It will be better for our employer as well as the workers. With the help and support of the RWDSU, we have achieved something historic. I have been working here for a long time, and it fills me with satisfaction to know that the workers who come after me will have a union contract guaranteeing them a better quality of life.”

The three-year contract will raise base wage rates before tips $3.53 over the life of the contract, and establishes five paid sick and two personal days. Scheduling issues have been addressed, with the employer agreeing to a posted schedule and to distribute hours and overtime fairly and equally.

Workers will also be able to take unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, bereavement, weddings and to visit their home countries.  There also is language limiting the use of part-timers, protecting immigrant workers and expanding protections against discrimination. The employer agrees to accommodate workers dealing with immigration issues allowing workers to use personal days to deal with immigration issues.

And, the union contract establishes a grievance procedure which gives workers the right to have representation by a steward or union rep when dealing with discipline. With the ratification of their first RWDSU contract, Hi-Tek workers finally have a voice on the job.

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