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  HOME | World (Click here for more)

Latino Workers Sue California Car Washes

LOS ANGELES – The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund announced a class-action lawsuit against several Southern California car washes for noncompliance with labor laws.

“We ask for a court order against these businesses to stop their noncompliance with labor laws,” MALDEF National Senior Counsel Victor Viramontes told Efe.

“We also demand that these companies pay their workers the wages they owe them and that they also pay the corresponding fines for noncompliance,” he said.

The attorney said that if they win the suit, each car wash employee should also receive $4,000 for having received false information on their pay slips.

“We workers are organized and we’re not going to allow business owners to continue exploiting us they way they have up to now,” Pedro Cruz, one of the plaintiffs who attended the press conference outside a Santa Monica car wash targeted by the suit, said.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants systematically use abusive labor practices against their mainly Hispanic workforce.

Viramontes said that since this is a class-action suit, any worker in this kind of company who has been the victim of labor-law noncompliance in the last four years can join in the legal action.

“We are here to send a message that you cannot continue to act this way,” said Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

The suit – filed against the owners of Santa Monica Car Wash and Detailing, Millennium Car Wash and Bumble Bee Car Wash – alleges that these firms pay no overtime, do not allow workers any rest breaks during the day or time off for lunch as the law requires, and give employees pay stubs with incorrect information, among other violations.

Investigations into such irregularities have been pursued by the CLEAN Carwash campaign, a coalition of close to 30 Los Angeles organizations backed by the AFL-CIO.

Low-paid workers in Los Angeles County are shortchanged an estimated $26 million from their weekly wages, according to figures from the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment.

According to the CLEAN campaign, more than 85 percent of car-wash employees in California are Hispanics. Other abuses uncovered by CLEAN include workers having to spend their own money to buy equipment they need on the job like gloves and boots.

When summer begins, the volume of work in car washes increases and the hours are longer, making it a time of year when workers are more likely to be exploited, the CLEAN campaign said Tuesday. EFE
 

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