NEW YORK—Car wash workers in New York City won a major victory on Thursday when they voted to ratify the city’s first car wash union contract. Queens-based Hi-Tek Car Wash and Lube is the first car wash in the city to unionize, and the first anywhere east of Los Angeles to do so.
Hi-Tek’s vote to unionize is part of a larger campaign by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). Five other city car washes that have voted to form unions but not yet ratified contracts are Sutphin Car Wash, also in Queens; Jomar Car Wash in Flushing; LMC Soho Car Wash in Manhattan; and Webster Car Wash and Sunny Day Car Wash in the Bronx.
Details of the Hi-Tek union contract, which will go into effect on June 3, include accommodations for a three-year contract that will start with an immediate raise of 28 cents from $5.65 (before tips). Incremental wage increases through 2015 will top out with hourly wages of $9.18 per hour including tips.
Hi-Tek and the other five car washes that have been working to unionize are just a few of the 200 car washes in New York City, according to Make the Road NY, a non-profit that works with immigrant populations. Make the Road estimates that there are 5,000 car wash employees throughout the city who are mainly immigrants and face unfair working conditions, including denial of mandatory paid overtime. Wages are also notoriously low.
The unionization of Hi-Tek will give workers additional protections, including union representation in disciplinary matters, a grievance procedure, a posted schedule, equal distribution of work hours, including overtime; paid sick and personal days; and unpaid leave for certain personal matters. The contract also includes some accommodations for the workers’ status as immigrants.