After fighting for several years against unfair practices by the car wash business owners, 60 workers, backed by the United Steelworkers, have created the first car wash workers union in Los Angeles.
"We're already seeing the benefits. We're enjoying them already, because if we now see ourselves working eight hours and if we work more they pay us extra," Exar Amador, a worker at Navas Car Wash, told Efe.
"If we work more than half an hour overtime in the afternoon we're paid and before it wasn't that way," said the Honduran-born worker.
The employees at Navas Car Wash and Vermont Car Wash recently joined the newly-formed union promoted by CLEAN - Community-Labor-Environmental Action Network - and the Carwash Workers Organizing Committee of the United Steelworkers.
The new organization of car wash workers, in which employees of Bonus Car Wash in Santa Monica - who unionized themselves last year - are also included, are members of the USW, which is part of the AFL-CIO.
Amador, who belongs to a group of 10 Hispanic union members at the Navas Car Wash, said that in the car cleaning business in Los Angeles, which employs around 10,000 people, mistreatment by the bosses and the low pay with long working hours "are put up with by the majority out of necessity."
"There's no respect for us, at times they treat us as subhumans," said the union member.
"And there's no right to say: hey! I'm hungry. I want to rest my half hour and (eat) something. What they say is: there's a lot of work. You keep working," he said.
The CLEAN Carwash Campaign began to protest the workplace mistreatment at several car washes, where most of the workers are Hispanic, about 10 years ago.
"We Hispanics today are demanding our rights more. Our voice is being listened to more," said Amador.
"With the signed contracts, the car wash union members and the owners of those businesses have agreed that instead of paying them $50 or less to work 12 or more hours per day, now they are going to earn $8.16 per hour for 8-hour days or overtime if the workday runs longer," Robert Cox of USW Local 675 told Efe.
Neidi Dominguez, the legal representative of the CLEAN Carwash Campaign, told Efe that the characteristics of the car wash union members are that they are immigrants, Spanish-speaking and probably the majority of them are undocumented.
"Therefore, to organize themselves they need the full support of attorneys and other workers' organizations to lose their fear of demanding what the law mandates in the U.S.," Dominguez said.
"At this time, the immigrant population is under attack by anti-immigrant policies and so they're more afraid," the attorney said.