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Car Wash Workers Fight for Healthcare, Justice (Video)

Car Wash Workers Fight for Healthcare, Justice (Video)

Admittedly, I take a little pride in driving around in a nice clean car. I have taken mine through a hand car wash place a couple times over the last couple years as a luxury, but for the workers it simply is not.

It took a strong campaign by the United Steelworkers just to ensure healthcare for Los Angeles car wash workers. Watch this video to see how they did it.

Thanks to the Steelworkers, Oscar can say this: “Now, thank God my life has changed. If I get sick and feel bad, I have a clinic to go to. This is all because of the campaign.”

In other cities, car wash workers are often mistreated and have their wages stolen. In New York, a car wash kingpin lives in high society while his workers live in poverty.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last week slapped a subpoena on John Lage, who is linked to more than a dozen car washes and lives in a $900,000 lakefront house in Westchester.

Workers claim that the car washes pay $5.50 an hour — $1.75 less than the legal minimum — plus a pittance in tips. They don’t make overtime and complain about harsh working conditions.

Elsewhere, Arise Chicago has done work around wage theft at car washes.

“Sadly, wage theft is a well-known practice in many low-wage industries. But we’ve found an unparalleled level of exploitation in the car wash industry throughout Chicago,” said Micah Uetricht, an organizer with Arise Chicago. “Wages far below the minimum, no payment of overtime, nonexistent health and safety precautions like personal protective equipment or training on the use of chemicals—conditions in Chicago’s car washes are hyper-exploitative.

Car wash workers tend to be immigrants and minorities, portions of our society that already hold little power, making them easier to target for employers. When I spoke with Carlos Ruiz, he told me of his typical work day: 12 hours long for about $50, which is far below the $8.25 minimum wage mandated by Illinois law.

Campaigns like the one show in the video above can change that. They provide an avenue to the workers to speak out and a path towards justice.

Related Stories:

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10 comments

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6:52AM PST on Dec 28, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

2:31PM PDT on Jun 13, 2012

This is exactly why B.O. should have pushed for single payer health care. I always tip when I get my car washed. I see people who go around the car, point things out and then get in their cars and drive off. May the blue bird of happiness shit upon them.

12:06PM PDT on Jun 13, 2012

Stop Sponging off the car wash employees. Waiters/waitresses, and any other low income job that expects tips, etc...........they don't make the tips, during a recession because people aren't spending like they used to. Pay employees the fair rate - its not right to treat these people with such contempt, they are doing jobs our own kids won't work at.

9:24AM PDT on Jun 13, 2012

Why CAN'T THEY HAVE INSURANCE?????WE ALL SHOULD !!

8:29AM PDT on Jun 13, 2012

This is Amercia, what right do workers have to decent pay or healthcare? Well pretty much none. Welcome to the "free market" world that the right worships so desperatelty.

8:16AM PDT on Jun 13, 2012

A society is no better than the way it treats the least of its citizens. Happy for those workers who managed to get healthcare - very upset that so many haven't been able to improve their lots. If we as a society don't respect and pay for the labor of others, we will find ourselves in a more and more divisive nation - and, as Lincoln said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

7:48AM PDT on Jun 13, 2012

On the corner where I live is a car wash. I've watched them working in all weather and they do work hard. They do deserve at least minimum wage. Then again, perhaps they do get above average tips at this particular car wash because I've noticed once when they were going home two of the workers had nice vehicles.

6:01AM PDT on Jun 13, 2012

One of the most encouraging and inspiring labor stories around. We don't know how much we will miss unions until they are all gone and left to fend for ourselves and left at the mercy of employers.

12:41AM PDT on Jun 13, 2012

Say your car has been in an accident, but repaired. Is it worth less than the exact same car that hasn't been in an accident? It's a hot topic, but some say yes. In 14 states, you're allowed to file a claim with your insurance company for that lost value. check out "Clearance Auto" website to find secrets to reduce auto insurance rates

12:38AM PDT on Jun 13, 2012

Say your car has been in an accident, but repaired. Is it worth less than the exact same car that hasn't been in an accident? It's a hot topic, but some say yes. In 14 states, you're allowed to file a claim with your insurance company for that lost value. check out "Clearance Auto" website to find secrets to reduce auto insurance rates

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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Lindsay Spangler Lindsay Spangler is a Web Editor and Producer for Care2 Causes. A recent UCLA graduate, she lives in... more
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