California, as our Los Angeles readers may know, is a national leader in terms of the number of car washes and employees employed by car washes. According to estimate, there are over 1,600 car washes throughout the state that employ more than 22,000 people.
One of the issues that comes with the great number of car washes is the just treatment of employees. This is a real problem in California. Back in 2003, the Department of Industrial Relations conducted an enforcement sweep of the car washing and polishing industry in the Los Angeles area. It was found that there were numerous labor law violations. Over $250,000 in back wages and penalties were collected as part of that sweep.
In March 2008, a report in the Los Angeles Times noted that many car wash owners pay less than half the minimum wage to their workers, and were guilty of other violations such as hiring minors, operating without workers' compensation insurance, and denying workers federally mandated meal and rest breaks.
As part of an effort to address the issue, the California Assembly passed a bill this week that would eliminate the expiration date on an existing law requiring car washes and polishing industry business owners to register with the California Labor Commission to post a surety bond for unpaid wages. This would effectively make the requirement permanent.
Wage bonds are posted for the purpose of protecting employee wages and fringe benefits, and provide a deterrent for employers who take advantage of workers.
Source: Baldwin Park Patch, "Assembly Approves Measure to Protect Car Wash Workers," Carlos Aviles, May 31, 2013.