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Supporting Car Wash Workers

Demanding Livable Wages, Safety, and Respect for Car Wash Workers

Every day in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, thousands of vehicles roll into car washes. These are the livery cars that shuttle Wall Street executives between meetings, the taxis that take tourists into the Chicago Loop, and cars and vans that transport people across the sprawling California metropolis, helping our economy run. Although these cities boast significant wealth, these vehicles are being washed by workers who are living on the edges of poverty, victims of dangerous conditions, low pay, and rampant wage theft.

Carwash owners often pay a daily rate...

Every day in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, thousands of vehicles roll into car washes. These are the livery cars that shuttle Wall Street executives between meetings, the taxis that take tourists into the Chicago Loop, and cars and vans that transport people across the sprawling California metropolis, helping our economy run. Although these cities boast significant wealth, these vehicles are being washed by workers who are living on the edges of poverty, victims of dangerous conditions, low pay, and rampant wage theft.

Carwash owners often pay a daily rate between $35 and $50 for a 10-12 hour shift, which is well below minimum wage.

 

But, in the nation’s three largest cities, workers in the car wash industry are standing up for themselves: supported by innovative coalitions of progressive labor unions and community-based organizations, thousands of workers are demanding dignity on the job. They are building solidarity in the workplace, mobilizing the support of elected officials, telling their stories through the press, convincing consumers to boycott lawless employers, winning justice through government enforcement agencies and the courts, and forcing the car wash industry to clean up its act.

“The boss has no respect for us. We work hard and we don’t deserve to be treated like animals." Feliciano, LA car wash worker.

The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) is supporting these campaigns to develop and share winning tactics and strategies, to research the car wash industry, and to design innovative public policies that can empower workers and hold low-road employers accountable for their illegal and unjust treatment of workers.

In early 2013, we partnered with the Wash New York campaign to publish Car Wash Kingpin: John Lage and the Poor Conditions in New York City’s Car Wash Industry, a vivid expose of the industry’s largest player. As a result of the workers’ bravery and the visionary leadership of the campaign partners, approximately 200 workers at seven carwashes have voted to unionize and almost all of them are now protected by a collective bargaining agreement.

“Car wash workers across the city are seeing the strength of the campaign and it is giving them hope. It is a powerful message that by standing together they can make things better,” RWDSU Organizer Joseph Dorismond.

In the spring of 2013, CPD, in collaboration with the AFL-CIO, brought together organizers and workers from all three campaigns – ARISE in Chicago, CLEAN in Los Angeles, and Wash New York – for a strategy session to share effective practices, build solidarity, and plan for future mobilizations. Because the campaigns are based on a new model of collaboration between labor unions and community-based organizations, there is a particularly acute need for strategic thinking and learning across geographies. CPD’s role in hosting these conversations and strengthening the work of these base-building groups is aimed at helping to rejuvenate the nation’s labor movement and rebuild the country’s middle class.

News

Carwasheros

NUEVA YORK —  Un estimado de 2.1 millones de neoyorquinos son víctimas de robo de salario al año...

11/17/2015 | El Diario
NY Amsterdam News

Amsterdam News - June 20, 2013 - According to a recently released report by car wash workers and...

06/20/2013 | New York Amsterdam News
Huffington Post logo

Huffington Post - February 26, 2013, by Camille Rivera - In March of 1968 -- just three weeks...

02/26/2013 | Huffington Post

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facts & figures

Carwash workers earn, on average, of $12, 932 annually, which is well below the poverty level.

Carwash owners often pay a daily rate between $35 and $50 for a 10 to 12 hour shift, which is well below minimum wage. Many carwash workers work as “propineros” or tips only workers, earning only tips and no hourly wages.

During busy summer hours carwash workers often work in extreme weather without breaks or water which can cause heat exhaustion, heat illness, and dehydration.

...

Carwash workers earn, on average, of $12, 932 annually, which is well below the poverty level.

Carwash owners often pay a daily rate between $35 and $50 for a 10 to 12 hour shift, which is well below minimum wage. Many carwash workers work as “propineros” or tips only workers, earning only tips and no hourly wages.

During busy summer hours carwash workers often work in extreme weather without breaks or water which can cause heat exhaustion, heat illness, and dehydration.

Routinely, workers are not provided safety equipment and are at risk for multiple health complications resulting from exposure to chemicals, falls and slips, and repetitive heavy lifting and washing methods.

In a 2012 survey of workers at 29 New York City car washes, more than half of all workers reported working more than 60 hours a week. Yet 75% of workers who worked more than 40 hours a week complained that they did not receive legally-mandated overtime pay.

media