Owners Agree To Hire 15 Workers At Other Locations After Abruptly Announcing Closure Of SoHo Car Wash; A.G. Schneiderman: We Will Take Swift Action to Protect Jobs Of Workers And Against Potential Retaliation
(New York, NY) – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement ensuring the employment of 15 workers who were about to lose their jobs because of the closure of a SoHo car wash location, which is part of a group of interrelated companies that for months have been under investigation for possible labor law and other violations. The agreement relates to an inquiry into whether the closure of the Lage Car Wash station, at 124-38 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, constituted retaliation against employees who previously reported violations.
“My office will take swift action when there is any indication that an employer may have retaliated against workers for reporting violations of New York’s labor laws,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Because of this agreement, 15 workers will not lose their jobs and will be employed at the companies’ other car wash locations.”
Lage Car Wash, Inc. informed workers earlier this month that the SoHo location would be closing near the end of February and that their employment would be terminated. As a result of Attorney General Schneiderman’s agreement, the car wash workers will instead be offered comparable positions at other New York City car washes operated by the owners of Lage Car Wash, Inc., within 30 days. The company will face penalties and damages if workers are not given positions as required.
The Attorney General’s signed agreement addresses only the closure of the SoHo car wash location. It does not resolve a broader and ongoing investigation into potential labor law violations by the companies and the 23 interrelated car washes they operate.
New York Labor Law § 215 prohibits retaliation by an employer against employees who have reported labor law violations to the government. Numerous types of action can constitute retaliation, including termination, blacklisting, reduction of hours and closure of a business location if done with retaliatory intent.
The case was referred to the Attorney General’s Office by the advocacy groups Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change and by the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
Juan Carlos, 26, who worked at the car wash for more than 7 years, said, “We are so happy to have won our jobs back. They owed us at least that. It’s thanks to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, to our union and the community organizations that supported us that we were able to win our jobs back and show bad bosses that they cannot break the law.”
Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, said, “This is an unprecedented victory in the car wash industry. Congratulations to the LMC SOHO workers and their union, the RWDSU, for showing what can be accomplished when workers take a stand. And, thank you to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his staff who lent invaluable support to help make this victory possible. Working people in this state can stand up for their rights knowing that this Attorney General has their backs.”
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said, “We congratulate the SoHo Carwasheros, who are proud members of the RWDSU, on a successful fight to save their jobs. We also applaud the Attorney General’s aggressive support for workers’ rights. These workers deserve to be treated with fairness and justice. We will continue the fight to ensure that the voices of the carwasheros are heard throughout this city. Now, these workers will not only still have a job but they will also be able to show other workers the difference a strong union can make.”
Jonathan Westin executive Director of New York Communities for Change, said, “This is the perfect example of the kind of unfair treatment that can be overcome when workers come together and organize. Thanks to the hard work of Attorney General Schneiderman, RWDSU and above all the workers, carwasheros are no long viewed as a workforce who are unable to stand up for their own rights.”
The case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Benjamin Holt and Haeya Yim under the supervision of Labor Bureau Section Chief Andrew Elmore, Bureau Chief Terri Gerstein and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel.