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The Internationalist
  February 2021

Owners Shutter Manhattan Laundry, Try to Move Machines

NYC Labor: Stop Wash Supply

Workers at Wash Supply Laundromat outside the closed storefront on the morning of February 20, protesting their firing for having won a union at the shop. The company tried to take the machines out of the shop.
(Internationalist photo)

FEBRUARY 20 – In a move straight out of the union-busters’ playbook, in retaliation for immigrant women workers organizing a union, the owners of the Wash Supply Laundromat on Manhattan’s Upper West Side fired them all yesterday, then abruptly closed the shop. This comes less than a month after the company tried to intimidate the women by firing one of them less than a week before the scheduled unionization vote (see “Immigrant Laundry Workers Defy Intimidation Campaign,” Revolutionaries in the Class Struggle, 26 January). Days later the workers dealt a blow to the bosses’ scare campaign, winning the unionization vote handily on January 29.

Now, like so many low-down exploiters before them, the company is trying to starve the workers out. Why? For the “crime” of standing up for their rights – and the rights of all workers. The bosses want to stop their courageous example from spreading to the thousands more who work in laundries and other low-wage sweatshops throughout the city. But New York is a union town. The labor movement here must stand up and use its power against the union-busting drive, help win the women’s jobs back and teach the labor-haters a long overdue lesson. This goes far beyond one small laundromat – if the workers movement brings its real muscle to bear here it can help blaze a trail to organize the unorganized, from Amazon to so many small shops like Wash Supply where starvation wages and dangerous, even deadly working conditions are so often the norm.

When protesters arrived this morning to denounce this blatant retaliation and demand the workers’ rehiring, they found the location dark and empty. The women workers held signs with messages like “No temenos miedo” (We are not afraid), “Despedidas por defender derechos laborales” (Fired for defending workers rights), or just the word “Union.” Activists from the Laundry Workers Center, Internationalist Group, CUNY Internationalist Clubs and People’s Power Assembly came out to back the workers with chants like “What’s Disgusting? Union-Busting!” and the one coined in the immigrant workers’ organizing drive at B&H Photo: “Unión, fuerza, solidaridad” (Union, power, solidarity).

Then with the streets nearly empty on this cold weekend morning, a van and unmarked truck appeared. Men in matching “laundry installation” and trucking company hoodies (JT Laundry Installation, JTC Trucking) emerged and prepared to take the machinery out of the laundromat and move it – to where, they would not say. Management lurked in vehicles nearby. Protesters hastily made a sign denouncing the company’s attempt to move the machines the morning after it threw the workers out on the street to punish them for demanding that it pay them the minimum wage and stop exposing them to hazardous work conditions.

Supporters of the workers’ rights were able to head off the machine-moving maneuver, for now. And no doubt this kind of open retaliation for union organizing exposes Wash Supply and its corporate cronies to legal jeopardies. But to stop the union-busting cold calls for a mobilization of power on the streets by city labor, including unions active in industrial-laundry, restaurant/hotel, service, transport and communications (Teamsters, TWU, CWA) sectors.

Internationalists with the fired Wash Supply workers at rally of solidarity with union organizing drive at Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama. (Internationalist photo)

The link between nationwide issues facing the working class and the struggle of a band of brave women immigrant workers here in New York – reminding some of labor’s history going back to Triangle Shirtwaist days – was dramatized when the Wash Supply workers headed down to Union Square to join a rally in solidarity with the unionization campaign in Bessemer, Alabama, being carried out by Amazon workers, many of them African American women. The demonstration, which included a sizeable contingent from the Internationalists and Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas (Class Struggle International Workers), gave them a warm welcome, and Yuriana, the Wash Supply worker fired last month, gave a speech supporting the struggle at Amazon. “Wash Supply workers, we are with you!” chanted the crowd.

As the union-busting company plots its next moves, NYC labor and immigrant rights activists must prepare for action.¡La lucha continúa!  ■