Eastside Car Wash Workers Win Historic Settlement

Screenshot via Google (©2018 Google)

In a historic move, City Attorney Mike Feuer announced on Tuesday that exploited workers at two Los Angeles car wash businesses would receive more than $1 million in restitution after his office reached a settlement with the owners.

Investigators found that Silver Lake Car Wash and Catalina Car Wash paid their workers abysmal wages — as little as $4.50 an hour — with no overtime pay for a ten hour or more shift.

The employers also withheld mandatory work breaks, would send home employees without pay if the car wash shut down early, and required workers to purchase their own safety supplies such as gloves and boots.

Feuer said that the car washes also falsified their records to prevent some of these allegations from coming out.

60 former and current employees of the car wash companies are involved in the settlement.

Speaking at a press conference at City Hall, Feuer said the average restitution payout would be $17,000 per worker. Long-time employees could see as much as $35,000 to $40,000.

"At this holiday season, think of the magnitude of those awards," Feuer said. "This is going to change lives of the workers who we sought to protect in this case."

The car wash companies agreed to pay $1,084,972 in restitution to qualified workers who were employed between January 18, 2014 to June 30, 2018. They'll also have to pay $519,027 in civil penalties and $35,996 in litigation costs to the City Attorney's Office.

Trinidad Dominguez, one of the workers who came forward with the allegations, congratulated the city attorney's team in Spanish at the press conference, and wished everyone a happy new year.

"I'm very grateful," he said. "This is really a great accomplishment for us workers."

The workers were not permitted to say any more about their experiences as part of the settlement.

Dominguez is a member of the Clean Car Wash Campaign, a local organization that works to protect the rights of the over 10,000 car wash employees in LA County.

Campaign director Flor Rodriguez says this kind of worker exploitation is very common in the industry.

"There's many car washes that we go to, and we talk to the workers," she said. "And when they talk to us, they bring up more information."

Are you a victim of wage theft? You can file a report directly with the City Attorney's office at mike.n.feuer@lacity.org or by phone at 213-978-1868. Workers can file a report anonymously, and no one will inquire about immigration status.


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