By Erica Pearson- New York Daily News
Picketing workers who say they were wrongly fired and want to get back to work were joined by local politicians in confronting a Bronx car wash manager Monday.
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera and City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito walked with several of the fired washers to the cash register inside Sunny Day Car Wash on 135th St. near the Third Ave. Bridge, and asked to speak with owner Frank Roman.
"Why are you all in the store?" asked a manager who would not give his name.
"They need their jobs back," Rivera said.
"I'll tell him that you were here," the manager said. He would not speak to the press.
Rivera and the others left, but vowed to keep protesting outside and trying to turn customers away. The car wash was open during the press conference.
"It is both illegal and immoral what they have done," said Rivera.
The dozen immigrant "carwasheros," backed by the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union(RWDSU) and community groups, have been picketing and trying to get drivers to boycott their employer for weeks.
"We want to return. It's three weeks now without work," said Nelson Aquino, 28, who had been drying cars at Sunny Day for a year before he was fired. "They only cut us because we demanded the money we were owed."
They say they staged a walkout on Nov. 11 after not getting paid for two weeks and were fired. They then contacted the union.
Lawyers for the union say the picketing is an "unfair labor practice strike."
Sunny Day's owner has since paid the dozen their back wages but hasn't responded to demands to let them return to work; the RWDSU is attempting to schedule an employee-wide vote on joining the union.
"It's really hard. It's a holiday season, and that is less money to send back home... I think these workers are truly an inspiration," said New York Communities for Change organizer Rocio Valerio Gonzalez.
Roman tried to take legal action this month to keep the picketing workers 50 feet away from his business but a Bronx Supreme Court justice turned down his request for a temporary restraining order.
Roman could not be reached for comment Monday; his lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
"Carwasheros deserve to be treated with respect. We are demanding justice," said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum on Monday.
"This car wash is dirty - not because of the cars it cleans but because of the way the workers are being treated."