Get directions to the first unionized car wash in Los Angeles at 2800 Lincoln Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405.
Today carwash workers with the CLEAN Carwash Campaign announced a union contract with Bonus Car Wash in Santa Monica, making Los Angeles home to the only unionized carwash in the country. The agreement marks the first contract won by the CLEAN (Community Labor Environmental Action Network) Campaign in its efforts to end decades of abuses suffered by Los Angeles carwash workers.
Secured with the help of community partners across Los Angeles and the national AFL-CIO, these agreements mean workers at Bonus will become members of the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, (United Steelworkers). Workers at Marina Car Wash in Venice, which is owned by the same company but was closed last December, also won recognition of the union and a contract, and the owners have committed to working to reopen the well-known carwash.
Oliverio Gomez, who has worked at Bonus Car Wash for nine years, said, “I’m so happy we have a union and a contract. Now we get to take our breaks, if we’re thirsty we can drink water, and they respect the schedule, and all of the hours we work are in our paycheck. But the biggest difference is we finally get respect as workers.”
Workers at Marina and Bonus Car Wash have been seeking to unionize since 2008. They formed organizing committees at both carwashes to push for improvements, engaged in worksite actions, and made presentations to dozens of local community groups, churches and synagogues to gain public support for their efforts to form a union and win a contract.
The contract includes a wage increase, health and safety protections, grievance and arbitration procedures and protections for workers if the carwash is sold. The agreement also establishes rights that protect workers from being unfairly punished or dismissed, among other things.
“These contracts are an absolutely historic tide change for the carwash industry,” said Chloe Osmer, Acting Director of the CLEAN Carwash Campaign. “After years of efforts by courageous carwash workers and our community partners, we’ve secured an agreement that marks the beginning of a cleaner carwash industry.”
“We are proud to welcome carwash workers into the United Steelworkers and applaud them for this victory in their struggle for fair wages, safe working conditions and respect,” said Dave Campbell, head of United Steelworkers Local 675. “We’d also like to commend the owner of Bonus and Marina carwashes for being an industry leader.”
Mike Watson, General Manager of Bonus Car Wash, said “We are looking forward to a partnership with the United Steelworkers that will make our business stronger and improve the opportunities and job satisfaction for all of our employees.”
“Los Angeles is the epicenter of the carwash industry and the epicenter of innovative organizing, particularly by immigrant workers.” said Maria Elena Durazo, leader of the LA County Federation of Labor. “LA labor congratulates carwash workers for standing up and demanding decent wages and safe conditions. We will make sure that hundreds of thousands of families in LA County know where to get their cars washed.”
The CLEAN Campaign also announced that carwash workers have won major victories in recent months, winning recognition of a union at three other carwashes in Los Angeles, including a mobile carwash and two carwashes in South Los Angeles.
Launched in 2008, CLEAN has been working to eliminate workplace abuses in the unregulated carwash industry. According to Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) LA, “The community in Los Angeles has embraced the carwash workers’ struggle for justice on the job. Consumers in LA have been clamoring for a place where they can wash their cars with a clean conscience – and now they finally have one.”
Santa Monica City Councilmembers Kevin McKeown and Terry O’Day joined workers and carwash management for the announcement. “Fair wages and safe working conditions are important to Santa Monicans, as we've shown before with our living wage campaigns for hotel workers and city contractors. We congratulate Bonus on becoming the fair-wage car wash of choice for all worker-friendly Santa Monicans,” said McKeown.
Although standards for carwash workers have improved in many areas of Los Angeles since the Campaign began to expose conditions and build community pressure for improvements, deplorable conditions are still all too common in the industry. Workers are often exposed to a variety of toxic chemicals without adequate protective gear and frequently work for extended periods under the sun without rest or shade. It is common for workers to be paid a daily rate that is far less than minimum wage, and many workers work for tips only.