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New York City Elected Officials Show Support for “Carwasheros” and Worker Justice at Assembly

New York City elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, told RWDSU “carwasheros” that they support their right to join a union and their fight for economic justice.

New York City elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, told RWDSU “carwasheros” that they support their right to join a union and their fight for economic justice.

Top elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, told some 200 “carwasheros” and their advocates that they support their fight for economic justice and the right to join a union.

In the two years since the Wash NY campaign began with the support of New York Communities for Change, Make the Road New York, and the RWDSU, workers at eight car washes have voted to unionize and have won contracts at six locations.

The three-year contracts include wage increases, job security, fair scheduling, protection of their tips, personal days and paid holiday bonuses for Christmas and New Year’s Day. Workers have been motivated to organize by unfair labor practices and bad working conditions, which have been found at car washes across the city, including below-minimum-wage pay and wage theft.

This Car Wash Worker Assembly began because the carwasheros decided to have one day out of year to come together, celebrate the victories of the campaign and set goals for the year.
One topic of the Assembly was the recent $3.9 million settlement between Attorney General Schneiderman and car wash owner John Lage over unpaid wages, and underpayments of state unemployment and workers compensation benefits on his workers’ behalf.

The campaign won successful strikes at the Sunny Day Car Wash in the Bronx, and Jomar and Off-Broadway Car Washes in Queens, saved the jobs of workers at the Soho Car Wash, secured six union contracts and brought about significant change in how workers are treated, even at non-union car washes.

“We are here at our Assembly today because united we are stronger,” said Ernesto Salazar, an El Salvador native who works at Webster Car Wash in the Bronx. “We are here with the most powerful people in New York City to ask them to continue to support us and to show that we are not alone and we will win!”

Another worker, Miguel Portillo, who works at Jomar Car Wash in the Bronx, said, “This Assembly is very important to us. We want all carwasheros in New York City to come together and join our fight. When we have every carwashero fighting, I know we can win. We can win more than we can imagine.”

Organizers also spoke about the Car Wash Accountability Act, which Speaker Mark-Viverito has introduced in the City Council. It would require licensing, transparency and best-practice standards. Car washes would face stiff penalties for fraud, misrepresentation or other violations. Charitable groups and others that conduct car washing to raise money would be exempt.

Region 1 Retail Locals Reach Out to Non-Union Retail Workers

In an on-going effort, UFCW Locals 328, 371, 919, 1445, and 1459, Region 1 and the Rhode Island chapter of Jobs with Justice are cooperating in an multi-state outreach effort to non-union retail workers in their area. For two weeks now, stewards, board members, local staff, and community allies have been talking to workers about the difference being a part of a union makes in their lives. As a starting point, the group is handing out flyers addressing the recent pay raises thousands of UFCW members at Stop & Shop received as part of their new contract.

Activists had hundreds of conversations with workers at more than 50 stores across New England, including well-known non-union chains like PriceRite and Hannaford Brothers.

Shane Allen of UFCW Local 919 hands out flyers at Hannaford Bros. in Brookfield, Mass.

Shane Allen of UFCW Local 919 hands out flyers at Hannaford Bros. in Brookfield, Mass.

UFCW Local 75 Cincinnati Processing Workers Ratify Their First Contract

UFCW Local 75 workers at Cincinnati Processing, a plant that supplies pork products to Kroger stores in four states, ratified their first contract on March 26. Organizing at the plant was a multi-decade struggle for plant workers and the first contract marks the successful conclusion of that campaign.

The cutting of pork products used to the be the job of union butchers at Kroger stores across the Midwest. However, with the increasing role of case-ready meat, those jobs transitioned to further processing facilities like Cincinnati Processing. Workers began to organize at the plant in the 1990s. However, a prolonged legal battle kept these workers from forming their union.

Cincinnati BeefTheir struggle to have a voice at work at Cincinnati Processing continued for a decade, but ended with a successful vote in 2013. Since then, workers have been fighting hard to negotiate a good first contract. It took a unanimous strike vote, but the workers finally got a contract they could be proud of in their new union shop.

“With this contract we were able to improve our working conditions and win a voice on the job,” said Ignacio Huerta, a cutter at the plant for six years.  “I’m so proud of my coworkers for standing together and making this happen.”