Los Angeles carwash workers signed on October 25, 2011 the first union contract of the industry. The agreement was reached after years of effort led by the CLEAN Carwash Campaign, a coalition of the United Steelworkers and the non-profit CLEAN (Community-Labor-Environmental Action Network).
The campaign was initiated in 2008 in the Greater Los Angeles Area, the region with the highest car density in the nation. While the carwash business is one of the most prosperous industries in California, the working conditions of carwash workers, often immigrants from Latin America, are deplorable.
According to the CLEAN Carwash Campaign, many Los Angeles carwash workers receive cash-only wages well below minimum wage and often work 10-hour-a-day shifts without taking breaks for rest or meals, in violation of California law. Furthermore, the coalition brought to light the risks that workers face on the job, most of them related to the lack of protective gear and exposures to toxic substances found in the chemicals used to clean the cars.
The agreement reached on October 25 is a first victory for the CLEAN Carwash Campaign and will allow workers at Marina Car Wash (Venice) and Bonus Car Wash (Santa Monica) to get a wage increase and better safety and health protection. The two businesses are now the first two unionized carwashes in the country.