August 9, 2012
Brighton Beach carwash wokers mull boycott
Workers at a Brighton Beach carwash who sued over dirty working conditions are now mulling a boycott.
The immigrant “carwasheros” say their boss at Hi-Tek Car Wash on Coney Island Avenue started slashing their hours after 17 current and former employees filed a June suit claiming they didn’t get minimum wage or overtime.
“We are going to ask people to back us up. We don’t want this to keep happening,” said Salvadorian washer José Oscar Ruíz [member of Make the Road New York], 28.
“What the boss is doing now is trying to tire us out so that we leave.”
Ruiz, who has toiled at Hi-Tek for five and a half years, said after he complained about not getting paid overtime, his boss cut his and other workers’ hours to under 40 hours a week.
The carwash is now understaffed, making it very difficult for those who are working, he said.
“What we want is a change on the job — that they respect us as people and don’t look down on us,” he said.
New York Taxi Workers Alliance executive director Bhairavi Desai said yellow cab drivers are prepared to stop visiting Hi-Tek in support of the workers.
“Most car washes throughout this city, they depend on the patronage of taxi drivers,” she said.
“If they want to profit from us as consumers they need to run respectable businesses that don’t exploit workers.
“Many drivers live in Brighton Beach. When they’re going home at night, many drivers will go to the car wash in their neighborhood right before they park for the night.”
Hi-Tek’s owners did not return a call for comment. In June, manager Gary Pinkus said all Hi-Tek employees are paid properly.
Advocates and workers plan to rally at Hi-Tek Thursday.
They say they will call for the boycott if their hours aren’t restored.
“It’s time to start escalating the pressure and the public attention,” said Deborah Axt of non-profit Make the Road New York, which is campaigning to clean up the car wash industry along with New York Communities for Change. They are backed by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
“It’s not a step that the workers or the campaign would take lightly,” Axt said.
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