On Tuesday, workers at Bonus Car Wash in Santa Monica, Calif. reached a contract, becoming the first-ever Southern California car wash to unionize, reported the AFL-CIO.
Oliverio Gomez, a Bonus Car Wash employee of nine years, said that the new contract "includes a wage increase, health and safety protections, grievance and arbitration procedures, and protections for workers if the car wash is sold. The agreement also establishes rights that protect workers from being unfairly punished or dismissed, among other things."
Prior to this, the working conditions of these car wash employees were less than ideal, said the LA Times. They were required to show up when their boss told them to, but wouldn't actually get paid for that extra time, because customers had not yet arrived.
Last year, said the report, the California attorney general filed a suit against Bonus Car Wash, demanding $6 million in back wages for works, plus fines and penalties.
Gomez said he hopes this union contract is the first of better things to come. He said that his bosses "didn't treat us like people. What I hope is that future generations who come to work here aren't treated as badly as we were; that they're no longer humiliated, but respected."
Fighting for their rights, the workers united in the CLEAN Carwash Campaign, a coalition of nonprofit organizations centered on the rights of car wash workers. CLEAN is supported by the United Steel Workers, the AFL-CIO, and many community and labor organizations in Los Angeles. The workers voted to join United Steel Workers Local 675 this summer.
Workers are looking forward to joining up with USW, said Mike Watson, general manager of Bonus Car Wash. The "partnership with the United Steelworkers will make our business stronger and improve the opportunities and job satisfaction for all our employees," he said.
What has resulted from this act of solidarity among workers, said Chloe Osmer, acting director of CLEAN, is "An absolutely historic tide change for the car wash industry. After years of efforts by courageous car wash workers and our community partners, we've secured an agreement that marks the beginning of a cleaner car wash industry."
Meanwhile, the fight for car wash workers' rights is spreading. Marina Car Wash in Venice, owned by the same company as Bonus, is closed, but workers there have also won union recognition and a contract, and are committing to working toward re-opening the place. Moreover, said the AFL-CIO, three other car wash facilities have won union support as well.
The AFL-CIO Now Blog also reports quotes Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, callingLos Angeles the "epicenter of organizing, particularly among immigrant workers." She concluded by saying that LA labor congratulates car wash workers for organizing and demanding fair conditions. "We will make sure that hundreds of thousands of families in LA County know where to get their cars washed."
Photo: A sign calling for justice for workers at the Marina Car Wash. Justice for Car Wash Workers.