Screen shot 2013-05-29 at 4.17.23 PM Photo credit: Flickr user Colin O'Brien (ColoradoColin)

The first car wash workers to unionize in New York City are now also the first to ratify a contract with their employer in an agreement that could mark a big step in an industry that has historically exploited immigrant workers.

The three-year contract is the first of its kind for car wash workers outside of California and requires the employer, Astoria Car Wash &Hi-Tek10 Minute Lube, to provide breaks, a succession of raises, and four weeks of unpaid leave to 30 immigrant workers.

Roberto Lopez, originally from Veracruz, Mexico told the Daily News that he had previously earned $5.65 an hour plus tips, but that the tips had often been withheld. Under the new deal, his minimum wage of $7.25 would increase to $9.18 after three years.

 

“To be able to take sick days and time off, this will be big," he said.

Meanwhile Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, told the Huffington Post that the contract was "a breakthrough."

"This contract proves that low-wage immigrant workers are able to stand up for themselves and are going to stand up for themselves," Appelbaum said.

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