Car Wash Workers Win Union Contract in Santa Monica

Santa Monica workers organized what may be first union in the nation to represent car wash employees

Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011  |  Updated 6:05 AM PDT
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What may be the first union in the nation to represent car wash workers signed a contract with Bonus Hand Wash & Auto Spa in Santa Monica.

Gordon Tokumatsu

What may be the first union in the nation to represent car wash workers signed a contract with Bonus Hand Wash & Auto Spa in Santa Monica.

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They are believed to be the first car wash workers in the nation to unionize and negotiate a contract with their employer.

The Sikder family, owners of Bonus Hand Wash & Auto Spa in Santa Monica, signed a contract with the union that represents 30 workers and calls for modest 2 percent pay increases.

Chloe Osmer of the CLEAN Car Wash Campaign (Community Labor Environmental Action Network), which organized the union, calls it a landmark move for an industry historically accused of abusing its employees.

“The (car wash) industry is so far below even minimum legal standards,” Osmer said.

She said the contract requires the owners to abide by state labor law, providing work breaks and a hearing process for worker grievances.

Car wash workers say it is a common practice in the industry for workers to be fired if they ask for a break or ask for the money owed them.

“Bonus” managers say the contract also benefits the company. As part of the agreement, it will open another car wash in Venice and will employ another 30 workers.

“We’re not going to raise our prices because of the union contract. That won’t be an issue,” said manager, Mike Watson.

Customer Jessica Begum said car wash workers deserve better treatment.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Begum said. “I think these workers deserve to be paid – paid well.”

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