Did Car-Wash Kingpin Cheat Workers? | Hillman Foundation

Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

Did Car-Wash Kingpin Cheat Workers?

New York State is investigating whether car-wash kingpin John Lage is underwriting his luxurious lifestyle with wage theft. In an exclusive for the New York Daily News, Erica Pearson reports that Lage is accused of paying $1.75 per hour below minimum wage to workers at his many car washes:

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last week slapped a subpoena on John Lage, who is linked to more than a dozen car washes and lives in a $900,000 lakefront house in Westchester.

Workers claim that the car washes pay $5.50 an hour — $1.75 less than the legal minimum — plus a pittance in tips. They don’t make overtime and complain about harsh working conditions.

Sources close to the investigation say Schneiderman is zeroing in on “serious” allegations of wage-and-hour violations.

Attendant Adan Nicolas told Pearson that he earns just $5.50 an hour at a Lage-owned car-wash in Astoria. He says that at the end of his 12-hour shifts, his nose bleeds and his vision blurs from all the chemicals he’s exposed to, but he doesn’t get overtime. Until recently, Nicolas was afraid to speak up because he is undocumented. “You ask for a raise, and they say no,” he told the Daily News, “In a certain way, they say, since we don’t have papers, we don’t have rights.”

[Photo credit: Whizchickenonabun, Creative Commons.]