Several Latino civil rights organizations are suing three car washes they claim refused to pay overtime and never gave workers a break.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed the lawsuit Monday on behalf of employees at Santa Monica Car Wash and Detailing, Lincoln Millennium Car Wash and Bumble Bee Car Wash.

Employees claim they were often forced to work off the clock without overtime pay resulting in thousands of hours of free labor at each car wash. They also allege the owners required them to buy their own materials.

This country … has a long history of stepping over the civil rights of Latino employees and failing to pay them mininum wage. But today four workers are stepping forward to say that that history — that many thought to be intransigent and unchangeable — will be changing and to set out for a new future.

- Victor Viramontes, national senior counsel for MALDEF

The suit seeks unpaid wages and a court order prohibiting the car washes from engaging in unlawful labor practices. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four car wash employees, or “carwasheros” as they call themselves, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press.

"This country … has a long history of stepping over the civil rights of Latino employees and failing to pay them mininum wage," said Victor Viramontes, national senior counsel for MALDEF, told the newspaper. "But today four workers are stepping forward to say that that history — that many thought to be intransigent and unchangeable — will be changing and to set out for a new future."

One car wash worker told the newspaper he worked 60 hours a week but was paid for 40.

"My lunch break time was not respected, and sometimes I would only get $250 a week," the worker told the paper. "Every worker has rights, and we deserve to have dignity."

Reached by phone, a Millennium car wash employee said the owners were unavailable for comment.

The suit seeks class action status.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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