Working at a car wash may be better than digging a ditch, as the 1970s hit song says, but employees in New York City who work cleaning cars and trucks say pay and working conditions need vast improvement.
A report released Tuesday shows that car-wash workers are paid less than minimum wage, routinely denied overtime and exposed to dangerous chemicals, New York's Daily News says. With conditions so dire, a coalition of community and labor organizations that produced the study has begun a campaign to organize car-wash workers.
Results from a survey of 89 workers interviewed for the study, commissioned by the coalition known as WASH New York, shows that none were offered sick time and only one was offered access to an employer-sponsored health plan.
Further, such practices aren't limited to a few employers but rather are widespread in the city, says Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is aiding the organizing effort.
Mistreatment at the car washes sometimes results in serious injury. At an organizing rally Tuesday, Guatemalan immigrant David de la Cruz Perez told the News that he had his hand crushed while adjusting a track several years ago at a car wash in Queens, after his boss turned on the machine. He says the accident resulted in nerve damage and pain that Perez still feels.
The unionizing effort seeks to right such wrongs within New York City's car wash industry and to inform the public about the ways in which car washes operate "to transform some of the worst practices," union spokesman Dan Morris tells WCBS-TV in New York.
For their part, car-wash owners and operators oppose unionizing efforts.
But they may be facing a turning tide.
As WCBS notes, a similar campaign in Los Angeles resulted in collective bargaining agreements between at least three car-wash companies and their employees.
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