Last month, workers at the Hi-Tek Car Wash & Lube, located at 83-01 24th Ave. in Elmhurst, gathered together to rally against unfair labor practices.
While they had created a letter they intended to present to owner Gary Pinkus asking for fair pay and better treatment, they were unsuccessful in getting him to come down from his office.
Vowing that they would make sure Pinkus would hear them out, the workers left the scene shouting “We’ll be back.”
On Sept. 8, the workers made good on their promise to Pinkus by overwhelmingly voting to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in a decisive vote of 21 to 5, making them the first of their kind in the City to unionize.
“The RWDSU has long been dedicated to improving the lives of immigrant workers, and we are proud of the employees at Hi-Tek, who have taken a historic step toward improving their jobs and their lives by voting to join the union today,” RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said. “Their courage in standing up for themselves sends a powerful message to other car wash and low wage workers throughout New York City: You can fight back against poor wages and working conditions, and you can win by joining the RWDSU.”
Six months ago, RWDSU partnered with immigrant advocacy groups Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change to launch the Workers Aligned for a Sustainable and Healthy New York campaign, which seeks to help fight against mistreatment in the car wash industry.
Since the launch, MRNY has worked with the employees of Hi-Tek Car Wash & Lube in Elmhurst in conjunction with their second location at 2981 Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn to file federal wage and hour lawsuits against their parent company Astoria Car Wash Hi Tek 10 Minute Lube, Inc. and owner Gary Pinkus.
While the lawsuits are still pending, organizers of the WASH campaign view the union formation as one more step towards improving working conditions across the City.
“This is an unprecedented victory, not just for the workers at Hi-Tek, who have voted to join a union, but for the movement of car wash workers across the city who now have proof that the risks and hard work have paid off for their brothers in Queens,” said Jon Kest, executive director of the New York Communities for Change. “I expect this vote will be the first of many.”
"Today, with 12,600 dues-paying members, MRNY is a unique amalgam of worker center, legal clinic, citizenship school, mutual aid society, policy shop, protest factory and church. Its four offices in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island are an egalitarian oasis for members, who gather there for conversation and classes..."