L.A. Schools Approve Resolution to Use CLEAN Carwashes

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board passed a resolution yesterday calling for the district to wash its huge fleet of vehicles only at carwashes that have signed the CLEAN Agreement, which commits the companies to abide by minimum employment, health and safety and environmental standards and to respect workers’ right to join a union.

Dozens of carwash workers, including those with children in the Los Angeles public schools, students and their community allies were on hand to support the resolution, which is the first of its kind in the nation. The Los Angeles City Council also is currently considering a similar resolution.

LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia:

I am proud of today’s vote. As a public institution, it is LAUSD’s responsibility to ensure that our scarce public tax dollars support only legal business practices. And as an educational institution striving to foster healthy families and successful students, it is important that we utilize firms providing decent, safe jobs in our communities. 

The CLEAN Agreement is endorsed by the CLEAN Carwash Campaign, a coalition supported by the United Steelworkers (USW), the AFL-CIO and more than 100 community, faith and labor organizations in the Los Angeles area.

The Los Angeles carwash industry is marked by widespread violations of workers’ rights and health and safety regulations. Carwash workers often are paid less than the minimum wage and sometimes earn tips alone.

Supporters at the board meeting testified that communities and classrooms suffer when parents such as these carwash workers can’t afford basic necessities for their children or are obligated to work long hours to survive.

Maria Aide Hernandez, whose 10-year-old son attends a Los Angeles public school, worked at Auto Spa Express for nearly a year. She told the school board:

When my employer started paying me with bouncing checks I didn’t have enough money to pay the rent, let alone buy the school uniforms my son needed.

California’s attorney general filed suit against Auto Spa Express last December, seeking $630,000 in unpaid wages for workers and more than $2 million in penalties and damages. The suit claims the carwash failed to pay minimum wage and overtime, failed to report injuries workers suffered on the job and failed to pay various state payroll taxes. 

Marisol de la Rosa said she couldn’t spend time with her two daughters or help them with their homework because she worked 10 hours a day at the Vermont Hand Wash and was paid only $40 a day. The Los Angeles city attorney’s office has filed more than 200 charges of criminal misconduct against Vermont and its owners.

Henry Huerta, director of the CLEAN Carwash Campaign, says carwash owners who break the law put responsible business owners at a competitive disadvantage, rob public coffers of revenue by failing to pay taxes and burden public services with expenses that should be covered by the employer.

Today’s resolution by the LAUSD should be a message to carwashes in Los Angeles: If you’re doing right by workers and the environment, we want to partner with you. If you’re violating the law, the community and public agencies are now watching, and there will be consequences.