Employees at New York car washes are working out the details of establishing a union in order to secure higher and fairer pay rates. Many car wash attendants are underpaid especially when overtime hours are factored in. They must turn to attorneys to intervene on their behalf to get the fair compensation from their work hours.
In Queens NY, workers at area car washes started a rally, holding signs protesting low pay rates and lack of back pay reimbursement. Workers are claiming they make just $5.50 a hour which is well below the state mandated minimum wage rates of $7.25 an hour.
There is an estimated 1,600 car wash employees in New York City. Many of these workers are immigrants and now feel the only way to earn their fair pay is to unite through a union. Many workers have logged 60-hour work weeks on a regular basis without overtime pay. Many more cite unpaid breaks, short lunch times, and unsafe work conditions due to their immigrant status.
During an investigation in 2008 by the New York State Department of Labor, one out of every five car wash locations has violated minimum wage and overtime pay laws. One car wash that was investigated was fined almost $2 million in fines from these violations. The employer was said to have not paid for overtime hours and covered up their actions by paying employees in cash.
The New York Attorney General’s office has become involved in several allegations of wage violations among car wash owners. One company which owns 21 car washes around the city was at the receiving end of a federal lawsuit a few years back. The company was required to pay more than $3 million in owed back pay to employees as well as damage costs.