A New York City ordinance requiring car wash companies to post a higher surety bond if they do not sign a union bargaining agreement covering their employees is invalid because it unlawfully favors unionization, and therefore runs afoul of the National Labor Relations Act, a federal district court judge has ruled on May 26, 2017. Association of Car Wash Owners v. City of New York, No. 15 Civ. 8157.  The ordinance was signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio on June 29, 2015, and the lawsuit was filed in 2015 by the Association of Car Wash Owners representing 100 car washes within the City.

The Car Wash Accountability Law, also known as Local Law 62, required all car wash companies doing business in New York City to post a $150,000 surety bond in favor of employees. However, if a car wash signed a collective bargaining agreement or agreed to monthly audits of its pay practices by a third party, the bond would be reduced drastically to just $30,000! The bond was intended to cover possible employee wage complaints, customer complaints, or penalties imposed by the City.

Overturning the pro-union statute, the judge held the ordinance violated federal labor law by imposing a penalty on businesses that do not agree to enter into collective bargaining agreements with unions. Judge Hellerstein pointed out that some City Council members’ statements in support of the ordinance provided evidence against the City, since “the legislative history makes clear that a central purpose of Local Law 62 is to encourage unionization in the car wash industry.”

The court held that the local statute was preempted by the NLRA because “states may not legislate in opposition to a federal law.” The court held that the ordinance had the effect of “pressuring businesses to unionize, [which] is impermissible under the NLRA, as it inserts the City directly into labor-management bargaining.”