It’s been more than a decade since it aired, but an NBC4 Investigation was credited on Tuesday with cleaning up the car wash business in Southern California.
Councilmen, former legislators, and labor leaders got together to celebrate 14 car washes which have agreed to unionize, the most of any city in the United States. And they say none of that would have happened without the video evidence from the undercover investigation.
"They did some undercover reporting, investigative reporting, which they caught on videotape things like owners saying (to workers) 'don’t check in today, but work,'" said Jackie Goldberg, a former legislator behind a bill reforming car washes in California.
The 2003 report exposed car wash operator paying workers well below minimum wage. One paid a worker only 80 cents an hour for a day's work.
Today, the union car washes pay their employees $8.16 per hour, and will give them a raise to $9 an hour next month.
"They now have a contract that gives workers a voice, a vote, and better working conditions," said Xochitl Cobarruvias, chief of staff for United Steelworkers Local 675, the union representing the workers. "Car washes are not only finally giving employees respect and dignity. They are beginning to wash away years of injustice," Goldberg said.