March 5, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
Brooklyn, NY – UFCW International President Marc Perrone, RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum, and five others were arrested on the streets of Downtown, Brooklyn this week, in support of a group of striking car wash workers alleging their boss owes them more $600,000 in unpaid wages and other damages.
The arrests in front of the Vegas Auto Spa at 557 7th Avenue on Wednesday morning, served as the culmination of a roughly 10-block march that carried about 200 vocal demonstrators through the normally sleepy streets of Park Slope.
Last fall, eight “car washeros” filed suit against Vegas Auto Spa owner Marat Leshehinsky, charing that the car wash mogul paid employees less than the minimum wage, and forced them to work almost 100 hours a week without overtime pay.
The energized group organized under the RWDSU banner, and on November 19, went out on strike.
Leshehinsky, however, has been unmoved. The popular Vegas Auto Spa was shuttered on Wednesday morning, but Leshehinsky has continued running the place using replacement workers.
“The time has come for justice to come to this city, and for every low-wage worker, and every worker in America,” Perrone said minutes before being cuffed and taken away along with Appelbaum, RWDSU Director of New York City Operations David Mertz, Councilman Brad Lander [D-39th District], Councilman Carlos Menchaca [D-38th District], Make the Road New York Co-Executive Director Deborah Axt, and at least one other.
Before sitting down in the road in his act of civil disobedience, Applebaum declared that enough is enough, and that low-wage workers must be treated with “dignity and respect.”
“We will not accept this,” the union leader said. “It hurts every one of us.”
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Veverito addressed demonstrators at the nearby Kolot Chayeinu Synagogue in advance of the kickoff, saying that it is the responsibility of legislators to hold bad bosses accountable for workplace injustices.
“Many of the workers in this industry, are working under adverse conditions where employers do not respect the workers, [and] where they are robbing wages,” Speaker Mark-Viverito [D-8th District] said.
In addition to supporting striking workers at the Vegas Auto Spa, organizers also pushed for passage of a new industry-wide regulatory bill before the City Council called the “Car Wash Accountability Act.”
Vegas car wash worker Angel Rebolledo, 53, said that he and his co-workers are tired of being exploited.
“We went on strike because we want a union contract, but the owner simply refused,” Rebolledo said. “We want fair wages, fair schedules and protection from the dangerous chemicals we use. We will continue to fight until the end.”