This Wednesday might not be the best day to have your car washed at Los Feliz's Vermont Hand Wash (formerly known as Hollymont Car Wash.) Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be hectic enough at the Vermont Avenue location because they're discounted customer-appreciation days, but tomorrow the business will become the target of a labor drive to unionize Vermont Hand Wash's "washeros." These are workers, some of whom have claimed, who are paid sub-minimum wages or, even, only tips.
While pickets have occasionally appeared at Vermont Hand Wash in the past, tomorrow's action will be a much more publicized event, headed by AFL-CIO chief John Sweeney. The groups responsible for it are CLEAN Carwash Campaign and the United Steelworkers' Carwash Workers Organizing Committee. The local car-wash industry, like such other auto-related businesses as parking lots and towing companies, is part of an unregulated Wild West commercial frontier with bottomless pools of immigrant labor. Among other things, CLEAN alleges that "workers frequently work 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, often with no overtime pay . . . [and] are subject to health and safety hazards such as constant exposure to water and to dangerous chemicals without protective gear."
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CLEAN has called a boycott of a half-dozen car washes, all owned or operated by Benny Pirian and his family members. In February the City Attorney's office filed a 176-count criminal complaint against Pirian's businesses.