On Wednesday, employees of K&P Car Wash in the Bronx held a rally to protest what they called intimidation tactics by the local industry association, which had called a meeting with the workers to talk about their efforts at organizing for higher wages.
“They came bringing coffee, pastries, sodas, and told us, ‘Let’s talk,'” Guillermo Brizuelas, 23, of El Salvador, told the newspaper. He said he makes $6.30 an hour at K&P. “They said they are not opposed to the union, but that we should be careful, that there are bad unions,” he added. “It was harassment, it was intimidation. They wanted us to be fearful of reprisals if we continued organizing.” The employees, who are mostly Hispanic, have dubbed themselves the Carwasheros.
Unionization is protected under federal law. For an employer to discourage it in any way is illegal.
The New York Daily News may be getting a bit excited, however. The following excerpt isn’t a quote from any source; they’re the author’s words:
Car wash business owners in the city seem to be increasingly worried about the growing number of their workers organizing to fight for their rights.
And who can blame them? These are not the same docile, fearful carwasheros they were able to exploit with impunity for many years.
The Daily News, which has covered this issue most vigorously, didn’t give the car wash owners’ association much space for its side of the story, either. In a single paragraph, they included simply: “The Association of Car Wash Owners said in a statement the union is the one ‘using tactics of intimidation’ instead of letting official labor board procedures move the situation along.”
The evidence certainly suggests there’s been exploitation of car wash workers in New York City, so much so that elected officials and the state’s top prosecutor have joined in trying to clamp down. But how rampant that exploitation is has not been well defined. And, as far as we can tell, nobody has pinned any allegations on K&P specifically. Any suggestion of wrongdoing on their part would be frivolous at this point.
Let the employees unionize. But leave the car wash businesses — and the industry as a whole — alone unless facts can back up the chatter.