May 2, 2012
Lawmakers Taking Aim At Car Wash Business
City lawmakers say they hope to clean up New York’s car wash industry — by making operators follow the same licensing rules as tow truck companies, garages and more than 50 other businesses.
“I was actually surprised when I learned that car washes don’t need any license from the city in order to operate,” said City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan).
“It’s just creating these steps to get this industry in line. It’s been demonstrated consistently that car wash operators have been in violation of labor laws.”
On Wednesday, Mark-Viverito plans to introduce the Car Wash Accountability Act, which would require all city washes to get a yearly license from the city Consumer Affairs Department.
The penalty for operating without a license would be $200 a day, maxing out at $15,000.
In order to be licensed, car wash operators would have to share details of ownership, show they comply with city, state and federal laws and get a bond to cover any unpaid fines or damages.
“This is an industry that seems to have a remarkable capacity to violate the law,” said Deborah Axt of Make the Road New York.
She said a licensing bill would be a good first step.
“It seems like a no-brainer to us,” Axt said.
Immigrant workers have been speaking out about low pay and harsh conditions at local car washes as part of a campaign by Axt’s group and New York Communities for Change.
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union is also trying to organize the workers.
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