Two Brooklyn City Council members were arrested on Wednesday for blocking traffic in a show of support for striking car washers in Park Slope.
Cops escorted Councilmen Carlos Menchaca and Brad Lander with their hands zip-tied behind them into a police van with Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, and three others for blocking 19th Street near Seventh Avenue in front of the Vegas Auto Spa carwash.
The protest and march was the latest display in support of eight car wash workers on strike since last year who sued the employer for unpaid wages.
Lander and Menchaca were joined earlier by more than a hundred protestors and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in support of a bill that would increase city regulations of car washing businesses and strengthen protections for their employees, many of whom are immigrant workers.
Mark-Viverito was not arrested.
“I have no doubt the courage and commitment of these workers and all their supporters here today will prevail over the cruel actions of the owner, Marat Leschinsky,” Lander said in a statement.
Eight car wash workers sued Leshehinsky for at least $600,000 in back wages in a months-old dispute that started last fall. They say they were locked out of Vegas; the owner maintains they’re on strike.
The workers allege that they were paid as low as $4.50 an hour, and never the legal minimum wage, which went to $8.75 in December. Organizers also said employees were denied overtime pay.
Leschinsky disputed the lawsuit and claims against him and his business, which was closed at the time of the rally.
“It doesn’t really accomplish anything. Acts like these don’t help,” he told Metro. He added he was been waiting on the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union to come back to the table after what he said were three weeks of non-responsiveness to his offer to employees.
“They didn’t have to keep the workers in below-zero temperatures outside,” Leschinsky said. “It’s a political game, and they’re using it for PR to make an example of the car wash industry.”
Dave Mertz, RWSDU director for New York City, pushed back on Leschinsky’s offers have been fair to the workers and on par with what other unionized car washers already receive.
“What he’s offered at the table is insulting for the workers,” Mertz said. “If he was serious about negotiating a fair contract, we wouldn’t be out there.”