August 2008 – Venice Car Wash Workers take action to win months of back pay

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By Jim Smith

After six months of having their paychecks bounce, workers at a Venice car wash had had enough. 

On July 24, the 40 workers staged a walkout and picket line in front of the misnamed the Marina Car Wash (it’s in Venice, not the Marina, at Venice Blvd. and Lincoln Blvd. 

A short time later, the owners coughed up the back pay. In the mean time, they had been living on tips and occasional payments out of petty cash.

It was unclear at press time if all of the workers had been paid in full, or if some would be paid next Aug. 4. Other questions remain about the payment of social security and federal taxes. The car wash management refused to offer proof to the Beachhead to substantiate its claim that the workers had been fully paid.

The workers estimate they wash 500 cars a day for a minimum of $10 each. Why weren’t the workers paid? The answer to that question is likely known only to Monowara Sikder, whose Sikder Holdings, Inc. is the legal owner of the facility.

The workers are being supported by Clergy and Laity Concerned, the United Steelworkers Union and the Community-Labor-Environmental-Action Network (CLEAN) Carwash Campaign, a Los Angeles organization. As word of the bouncing checks got out, a number of Venetians called the car wash to express their concern.

At the picket line, workers showed a Beachhead reporter their paychecks, stamped “Returned: Not Sufficient Funds.” In addition, one worker showed a handmade lottery ticket, explaining that the workers had been given a number that week. The winning number entitled that worker to have his check cashed by the car wash’s cashier.

The Clean Carwash Campaign has uncovered  numerous violations of labor law at area carwashes. Primary violations are payment of less than the minimum wage, no lunch breaks, no drinking water and exposure to dangerous chemicals.

The car wash in Venice appears to be the first one where workers were not being paid at all.

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