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Workers win contract with country's first unionized car wash

Car wash workers organize union

This post has been updated. See the note at bottom for details.

Workers at a Southern California car wash have organized and won a labor contract with their employers, making it what’s believed to be the only unionized car wash in the country.

The agreement, to be announced at a press conference Tuesday morning, is between some 30 car wash workers and the Sikder family, owners of Bonus Car Wash, at 2800 Lincoln Blvd. in Santa Monica, according to the contract The Times has received.

As part of the agreement, the family has agreed to attempt to reopen Marina Car Wash in Venice, which had closed and had employed another 30 workers, said Chloe Osmer of the Community Labor Environmental Action Network (CLEAN), a group formed to organize car-wash workers.

The contract calls for small pay increases of 2%. Its greater importance, Osmer said, is that it calls for owners to abide by state labor law regarding car wash working conditions, such as work breaks and when workers can clock in. It also provides a procedure for hearing workers' grievances and requires any new owners of the car wash to abide by the contract.

In the past, workers would be asked to show up for work at a certain time, but then not allowed to clock in until customers began arriving. Work breaks were also limited, said Eduardo Tapia, a Bonus worker for five years.

“It was a two-year struggle,” said Tapia. Now, “we have 10 more minutes of break. We have our water to drink. If they say show up at work at 10:30, I start work at 10:30.”

Times’ telephone calls to Bonus Car Wash and the Sikder family attorney requesting comment were not returned.

[For the record, 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25: An earlier version of this post stated that car wash owners would reopen Marina Car Wash in Venice as part of the agreement with workers. The owners said they will try to reopen the business, which is on property that they don't own.]

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 -- Sam Quinones

twitter.com/samquinones7

Photo: Car wash workers have long been protesting unfair pay and working conditions. In this 2007 file photo, union organizers held several protests in their unsuccessful attempt to organize Southern California's 18,000 car washers. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

 
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