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Raises Set for Workers at Pioneering Santa Monica Carwash

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Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

September 16, 2015 -- A Santa Monica carwash that was the first in the nation to be unionized has reached a one-year contract that includes raising wages for employees to meet the coming $10-an-hour state minimum wage, a representative for the business said Tuesday.

The ratified agreement between Bonus Car Wash at 2800 Lincoln and its estimated 30 workers went into effect July 1 and expires in September of 2016, said Candice Lee, the company’s controller. The raises become effective January 1, when the new minimum wage kicks in.

Raises total 12 percent, with most of that hike geared to meet California’s new minimum wage, which increases from the current $9 an hour to $10 next year, she said.

“They did get a little bit above” the minimum wage hike, she said. “We’re trying to stay in business as well as give them an increase.”

The agreement also includes time-and-a-half pay for working some holidays and three days of paid sick leave, as is now required by the state, Lee said.

Manuel Ramirez, a field representative for Local 675 of the United Steel Workers, which represents the employees, said the increase is about 3 percent plus a dime once the higher new minimum wage is factored in.

Ramirez said the contract, which took a couple of months to negotiate, was “an improvement from what we started with. Every contract is an improvement.”

Bonus Car Wash became the first unionized car wash in the nation in 2011, leading the way for 20 more car washes to unionize in Los Angeles.

The union contract gave workers the right to be paid on an hourly basis, receive paid lunches and breaks and have access to water.

According to the Clean Carwash Campaign Organization, which advocates for carwash employees, there are 500 carwashes in the Los Angeles area and about 10,000 employees.

Organizers say the carwash industry is part of the underground economy, with many of the businesses failing to meet basic labor, health and safety laws.

The organization’s website said that shortly after Bonus Car Wash unionized, workers from Vermont Carwash in South Los Angeles followed suit.

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