Car wash workers have filed a federal suit against the owners of Vegas Auto Spa in Park Slope, alleging wage theft their lawyers say could ultimately exceed $1 million in non-payment of overtime and other violations, including damages.
It is outrageous that some car wash owners have cheated their workers out of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars over the years,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum yesterday at a rally in front of the car wash, noting that one major car wash owner has agreed to settlements totaling more than $7 million. “I applaud these brave carwasheros for standing up for their rights and saying ‘We are not going to take this anymore.
In the complaint, filed late Tuesday in Brooklyn Federal Court, lawyers for the workers said car wash owner Marat Leshehinsky failed to pay minimum wage, time and a half for overtime and took improper deductions from the employees’ checks. The complaint alleged that some of the carwasheros worked more than 90 hours a week.
Attorneys preliminarily estimate the eight workers involved in the suit are owed in excess of $600,000 in wages and damages due to non-payment of overtime and other violations; the employer’s total liability could ultimately exceed $1 million.
Workers were Joined yesterday by City Council members Brad Lander and Carlos Menchaca, RWDSU activists, and community groups New York Communities for Change and Make the Road New York.
Also on hand to support the workers were Pastors Samuel Cruz and Vanessa Cardinale of Trinity Lutheran Church, Brooklyn; Pastor Ruth Salgado of Manatial de Vida, Brooklyn; Reverend Ray Rivera of the Latino Pastoral Action Center in The Bronx and Pastor Carlos Zuniga of the New Life Christian Fellowship in Queens.
We are carwasheros united and fighting for our rights, and for our future,” said Rogelio Lara, of Brooklyn, who has worked at the car wash for nine years. “We are fighting not just for us, but for all those who are coming after us, so they don’t go through what we’ve suffered through. We want to have better protections, job security, pay for the overtime we worked and we want to have some vacation days. It’s not fair that our boss goes on vacation three times a year with our money. We demand an end to all this injustice and labor exploitation!
The workers also report they are forced to lie about the amount of hours they work and to exaggerate the amount of tips they receive.
We are suing the boss because he makes us sign papers that aren’t true,” said Angel Rebolledo of Brooklyn, who has worked at Vegas Auto Spa for two years. “He says that he pays his workers overtime, but he doesn’t. He claims that we make more tips than what we actually do. He has threatened to fire us if we don’t sign and this is not fair. All the abuse and exploitation has to stop: This is why we are protesting.
Advocates say these allegations demonstrate the need for immediate passage of the Car Wash Accountability Act, which would require owners to be licensed and to put up a surety bond to ensure that money is available to pay substantiated claims. The legislation is pending in the City Council.