Brooklyn car wash employees score landmark contract following protests

April 6, 2015 Jaime DeJesus
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Score one for the ‘carwasheros!’

After a protest started by the car wash employees of Vegas Auto Shop at 19th Street and Seventh Avenue this past November over working conditions and unfair pay, the workers finally saw a happy ending to their struggle.

On Thursday, April 2, the employees won a two-year contract agreement, which will include two wage increases, paid time off, fair sharing of hours and overtime, a grievance procedure and protection for immigrant workers. It is the strongest contract won in the industry, with higher wages and a $1,500-per-person signing bonus.

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The contract is the ninth negotiated since the Wash New York Campaign launched three years ago, but only the first at a Brooklyn car wash. Larry Cary from the law firm Cary Kane represented the union during negotiations.

Four months ago, eight of the carwash employees claimed the shop’s owner, Marat Leshchinsky, owed them a total of $600,000 because, they said, he had not paid them either minimum wage or overtime. He claimed he always followed minimum wage laws.

However, Leshchinsky agreed to settle a suit the workers filed for wage and hour violations.
On March 4, elected officials joined the carwasheros in protest near the establishment. As a result, Councilmembers Carlos Menchaca and Brad Lander were arrested for civil disobedience and blocking traffic. The pair was pleased with the results.

“We celebrate the ‘carwasheros’ of Vegas Auto Spa for their courageous leadership in labor contract agreement that provides the protection that they need and deserve,” said Menchaca in a statement. “This settlement sends a strong message that all workers deserve dignity and respect, and are empowered through their unions.”

“Congratulations to the brave carwasheros of Vegas Auto Spa, who have finally secured a fair contract in their fight for better working conditions,” added Lander. “With this new contract secured, I’ll be proud to take my car to Vegas Auto Spa, and show that I support businesses that do what is right for their workers.”

“This victory exemplifies what workers can accomplish by standing together and fighting for fair compensation,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who also attended the March protest. “These men and women will finally receive the living wage that they deserve so they can support themselves and their families.”

The employees will return to work on Monday, April 6.

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