A movement is underway in Los Angeles to improve working conditions for the more than 10,000 car wash workers who keep the area’s car culture running.
Carwash workers traditionally have labored under harsh conditions, such as low pay, wage theft and a toxic work environment. Carwasheros often are paid just in tips for a full day’s work, often performing backbreaking tasks for more than 10 hours with no breaks for water. They risk exposure to hazardous and corrosive chemicals without adequate protective gear. Carwash workers also are predominantly immigrants who are routinely threatened with deportation if they speak up for better working conditions.
Founded in 1996, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Los Angeles (CLUE-LA) is comprised of more than 600 clergy leaders from all faiths and 1,200 lay people dedicated to helping workers in their struggles for justice. CLUE-LA has partnered with the CLEAN Carwash Campaign to ensure these low-wage workers have a voice as well as decent working wages and conditions. Through education and mobilization, CLUE-LA connects to a broader network of faith and community organizations to change the plight of the carwash workers and their families.
The CLUE-LA and Clean Carwash Campaign have won a string of victories. Chief among them is the establishment of the nation’s first union carwash, Bonus Car Wash in Santa Monica, in 2011. Since then, more than a dozen area carwashes have been unionized, and the CLEAN Carwash Campaign is building on this momentum by expanding its efforts to West and South Los Angeles. In June 2014, workers and their supporters gathered at Bonus Car Wash to celebrate the renewal of this historic contract between the union and the carwash. Additionally, in January 2014, a new California law went into effect that protects car wash workers by preserving the existing car wash registry. The law also includes a bond requirement to ensure that workers who are not paid in accordance with law can be compensated if their employer disappears or is otherwise unable to pay wages or benefits owed the employees.
For a map of union carwashes, click here.