Abused Car Washers Rejoice as They Get Compensation

Car washers celebrating the State Attorney General's deal with their employer (Photo by Humberto Arellano via El Diario).

Car washers celebrating the state attorney general’s settlement with their employer (Photo by Humberto Arellano via El Diario)

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced last week that two car wash chains in New York City will have to pay workers $3.9 million in restitution for underpayments and labor abuse, putting an end to a six-year plight by the mostly Hispanic immigrant car washers.

In El Diario/La Prensa, Rosa Margarita Murphy writes about the workers’ joyful reaction.

Some 1,000 workers of car washes rejoiced after hearing the official announcement of State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, about a multimillion dollar compensation they will receive for labor abuse.

Daniel Montero, 39, from Mexico, is one of the employees of the 21 car washes owned by [John] Lage and [Fernando] Magalhaes. He will get monetary compensation after his employer John agreed to reimburse more than $2.2 million to his workers for failing to pay the minimum wage and extra hours.

“We never got any kind of benefits. Now I’ll get to have some fun because for years I have worked without a vacation, and earning next to nothing. It’s only fair that I can take my children on vacation,” said Montero.

Other workers also expressed their happiness about the settlement.

Rodolfo Ernesto Salazar, 38, a father of eight from El Salvador, said the money will be a great help for his children, but said that most important for him is that “this is a great step in our fight against injustice towards migrant workers.”

For his part, Miguel Portillo, 26, who for more than three years has led the cause of the car washers denouncing labor abuse, made a call to his colleagues to remain united.

“This is a small battle, if we won this one we can win more to come. Don’t be afraid to take action and join our fight, you will see that our future achievements will be even greater,” said Portillo.

The massive labor violations uncovered by the attorney general’s office investigation include underpayment of workers – they earned $5.25 to $5.50 per hour – unsafe working conditions and skimping on employees’ compensation and unemployment insurance costs by paying for coverage for only a fraction of the staff. There is nothing wrong in asking for a bit of help if you have had to go through a similar experience. Doing your research into something like a workers comp claim can help you in this situation in order to assist you in getting the compensation you deserve.

The two major car wash chains owned by John Lage, Michael Lage and Fernando Magalhaes will have to pay $2.2 million to the workers for the six years they underpaid them. They will also have to give $513,000 to the New York State Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Division and nearly $1.2 million to the New York State Workers Compensation Board.

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