Car Wash Workers in LA Standing Up to Employers

There are many full service car washes in Los Angeles and Orange County, California.  For many years, these workers would put in a full day of hard work at leave with less than $50 paid in cash.  There was no fixed schedule, according to a recent news article from Truthout. Workers would often wait around for hours until cars arrived and then were told to begin work.  They were not being paid anything for those hours they were forced to stand around. If they failed to wait there, they would not get any work that day.

carwash-1514403Car wash employees said there was no accountability and nothing that could be done to make their respective employers follow the labor code in California.  If they complained, they would simply be fired – an illegal and retaliatory action – and would be replaced with someone else.  One of the reasons they were able to do this was because they largely hired Hispanic workers who may not speak English and are often reluctant to go to the authorities for fear of retaliation from the employer and loss of wages in general. 

However, the workers are partnering with major unions and trying to organize their labor force, so they have more power to stand up to their respective employers.  The problem with organizing these car wash employees is that are few chains of these business in and around the Los Angeles area, but since retaliatory termination is such as serious problem, these organizers are trying to do whatever they can.

There are several reason having independently owned business makes it harder to organize workers.  One reason is there is very little communication between workers at different locations. It is not like they can send out a companywide email to get employees to come to a union meeting.  While employers at a big box chain for example, might not like their employees organizing a union, there is not much they can do, since it is illegal for a company to interfere with union association.

The group is making progress, but things are not moving all that fast as of yet.  There are approximately 500 car wash businesses in Los Angeles County, and the employees at 30 of them have already joined the union.  One thing that affects the strength of the workers is a recent change to California labor law affecting the industry.  The Car Wash Worker Law, which became effective in 2014, requires that car wash owners register and maintain a bond in the amount of $150,000 in the event of a violation of labor rights of these workers.

If you work at a car wash or for any other type of employer in Los Angeles, and you are victim of employment retaliation, including wrongful termination, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer to see if you have a valid claim.

One of the major ways these car wash workers were and still are being harmed is that they are often paid based on a number of cars washed and not given any compensation for the time spent at the location waiting, and this has resulted in an average hourly wage of around $4.  This is obviously much lower than the required minimum wage.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

Los Angeles Car Wash Workers Turn Up Pressure, May 16, 2016, Truthout, By Sonia Singh

California Considering New Regulations to Prevent Workplace Violence Among Healthcare Workers, Jan. 11, 2016, Orange County Gender Bias Lawyer Blog