Deal Helps Car Washers Avoid the Ax

Guatemalan Héctor Gómez, 22, is one of the car washers who will benefit from the agreement reached by the attorney general’s office. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario-La Prensa)

The owner of a Manhattan car wash chain called Lage Car Wash settled with the state attorney general’s office to relocate workers who would have lost their jobs after one of the chain’s businesses shut down.

As part of the agreement with the attorney general’s office, a total of 15 employees who worked at the Broome Street and Sixth Avenue location in SoHo will be placed at other Lage Car Wash branches.

“I’m very pleased with the efforts of the attorney general’s office,” said Jildo Soriano, a 37-year-old Salvadoran man, who worked at the company for more than six years.

Soriano said that during hard economic times, “losing my job would be a tragedy, considering that I’m supporting my wife and child.”

The workers had been informed at the beginning of the month that they would become unemployed after the company finally decided to shut down the business. The majority of the employees suspect the closing happened in retaliation for reporting labor law violations.

Juan Rivera, 26, worked for the company for more than seven years. He described the agreement as a huge relief.

“We had a feeling that they laid us off out of revenge after we reported abuse in our workplace,” he said.

Rivera explained that one of the reports filed with authorities indicated that the company did not provide employees with gloves for washing the vehicles.

“Because of that, years ago, I lost my nails when I had direct contact with the acid that we use for cleaning the rims on tires,” he said.

“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,” said attorney general Eric Schneiderman. 

February 20 was the last day the car wash was open to the public, so in the next few days – according to the attorney general’s office – workers would be called for their relocation assignments.

Deborah Axt, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, one of the organizations that brought the case to the attention of the attorney general’s office, described the settlement as “an unprecedented victory in the car wash industry.”

The attorney general’s office will continue to investigate complaints about possible labor law violations by the company and the 23 car wash businesses that it runs.

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