Car Wash Workers, Other Low Wage Workers, Need Our Help

May 15, 2017

President's Message

Working with our affiliates, including the RWDSU who is leading the efforts to improve the working conditions for car wash employees and others, the NYS AFL-CIO is supporting efforts to establish basic standards of decency in pay and benefits. While by no means the only industry where abuse of workers occurs, the plight of car wash workers has become a symbol of why we must act.

Car wash workers are considered tipped workers, meaning employers pay them less than the minimum wage. The assumption is that combined with tips and sub-minimum wage pay, the worker will earn at least the state minimum wage. Car wash employers are supposed to compensate the workers if the tips are not sufficient to make up that difference.

The model is ripe for abuse because tips are often pooled and shared with all workers on a shift and by others who perform different jobs but may get pulled from those duties to assist the washers. The business is seasonal in nature and the weather plays a large factor in volume. Combined with the fact that the customer tipping is sporadic and unpredictable, the weekly pay fluctuates greatly for these workers.

This business model is also cash based and largely unregulated making it difficult to verify payroll data and record keeping. Many of the workers are immigrants who are not properly informed of their rights. All of this contributes to a situation where wage theft is a major problem and where car wash workers are among the most exploited workers in any business or sector.

We need to make sure that every individual who puts in a hard day’s work is treated fairly. We urge the legislature to address this situation by passing A2967/S2664.

— Mario Cilento, President

Call To Action

Next Labor Lobbyists Meeting

Monday, May 22, 2017, 1:00 p.m.
100 South Swan Street, Albany, NY

The NYS AFL-CIO wishes a Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Labor Moms!

Issue of the week

Fairness For Car Wash

A2967 Moya/S2664 Hamilton

This bill would require that car wash workers be paid the full minimum wage and no longer rely on customers to subsidize their wages with tips. Currently, carwashes are covered by the NYS Miscellaneous Industry Wage Order that permits employers to pay their workers less than the minimum wage with the assumption that combined with tips, the worker will earn at least the state minimum wage. Car wash employers are supposed to pay the difference if the tips are not sufficient.

Problems with the proper application of the tip credit are commonplace and wage theft continues to be part of the car wash business model, leaving thousands of workers, many immigrants who are not properly informed of their rights, at the mercy of their employers. The tip credit structure is confusing to both employers and employees and it is a cash based, largely unregulated industry with indiscernible ownership structures. This makes verifying payroll data and record keeping nearly impossible.

This bill restores some semblance of fairness for these workers by requiring the full minimum wage and making it easier for employers to maintain records of their payroll. A simplified wage structure would prevent wage theft and allow for more effective enforcement efforts by the appropriate agencies.

Therefor this federation urges passage.

For further information contact Mike Neidl at 518-436-8516 or by email [email protected]