Tue May 21, 2013 7:16AM
Civil rights organizations say some California car wash companies are mistreating their employees by withholding pay and forcing them to work long hours. These companies are accused of taking advantage of workers, many of whom immigrants, in order to cut costs and boost profits.
Southern California car wash workers are turning to the federal court in the hopes of improving their working conditions. A group of workers have filed a lawsuit against several car washes for routinely withholding pay and denying breaks during the summer. The lawsuit alleges that these southern California car washes have committed numerous labor violations that have resulted in thousands of hours of free labor. Maria Elena Durazo is the executive director of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Durazo says for the past several years, labor leaders have been fighting to improve conditions in the car wash industry. She says companies think they can get away with these practices because workers are often undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed the lawsuit in federal court. MALDEF officials say a study has shown LA County employers deprive low-wage workers of an estimated 26 million dollars in wages every week The lawsuit follows a decision by California Attorney General Kamala Harris to award 1 million dollars to workers at eight car wash stations across the state. The ruling said owners did not pay overtime, falsified payment records, and denied workers rest and meal breaks. MALDEF officials say it’s important that these workers know that they don’t have to be treated like slaves, regardless of their legal status. Car wash owners refused to comment on the lawsuit. MALDEF attorneys say the suit seeks back pay for more than one hundred workers and relief to prevent future violations from occurring.