Workin' at the car wash


Worker advocates with La Raza Centro Legal and the San Francisco Day Labor Program are partnering with city officials for a creative approach to addressing the pervasive issue of wage theft: A worker-owned car wash.

On Aug. 17, attorneys from La Raza joined with City Attorney Dennis Herrera to announce that a lawsuit had been filed against the owners of Tower Car Wash for longstanding labor law violations that resulted in workers earning less than minimum wage. The complaint, filed jointly with the city and La Raza, seeks to recover up to $3 million in compensation, penalties, and interest for the cheated workers.

The Tower Car Wash lawsuit, along with other high-profile complaints alleging wage theft that the city has filed against the owners of Dick Lee Pastry and Danny Ho, who allegedly cheated day laborers out of the money they were owed, would never have come to fruition if low-wage workers hadn't come forward. Individuals like Tower Car Wash employee Rosa Ochoa, who's involved with La Raza's Colectiva de Mujeres, have publicly challenged their employers for labor violations, a tough stand in a state with exceptionally high unemployment in the midst of a recession.

"What we feel like is really important about this lawsuit is that for us, it's about worker empowerment," says Workers' Rights Coordinating Attorney Kate Hegé of La Raza. "It wouldn't be possible without these workers being able to come forward."

The idea for a worker-owned car wash emerged out of a desire to advance the goal of worker empowerment, Hegé notes. With help from Sup. David Campos, interim Mayor Ed Lee, and pro bono assistance from the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, La Raza and the San Francisco Day Labor Program hope to establish a regular car wash on weekdays in the city-owned lot on Bayshore and Alemany boulevards, the location of the Alemany Farmer's Market and the Alemany Flea Market on Saturdays and Sundays.

"We've been working with the city for the past several months to start a green, worker-owned car wash cooperative where workers of the San Francisco Day Labor Program would not only administer it, but work and gain benefits," Renee Saucedo, Community Empowerment Coordinator at La Raza, told the Guardian. "The main thing about this day labor car wash is that it's going to be run by the workers themselves."

The project comes on the heels of a broader local effort to improve protections for low-wage workers. Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors approved the Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance, crafted in partnership with the Progressive Workers Alliance to strengthen the the city's Office of Labor Standards & Enforcement.


compete with private companies, than that they fester and bridle against the system while contributing nothing.

Just like Rainbow competes with WholeFoods. I use both and occasionally even find it entertaining to be served cheese by a purple-haired butch dyke (that was WholeFoods, by the way).

So yeah, bring it on - no red-blooded American ever feared true competition. That might just be the first time I have ever agreed with you, Lisa.

Posted by PaulT on Aug. 23, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

"red-blooded American"?????

That sounds about as redneck as it gets! Don't all people have red blood, PaulT, regardless of where they're from? And which "American" are you referring to?...the Americans in South America or Central America or North America?

"I use both and occasionally even find it entertaining to be served cheese by a purple-haired butch dyke."

What's "entertaining" about that? Or you just exposing your prejudices?

Posted by Jorge Orwell 1984 on Aug. 23, 2011 @ 9:28 pm

There's a time where justice is served. In my opinion all the workers(regardless whether they are legal or illegal people) have rights. We are human beings and we must treat others the same way we want to be treated. I really feel sorry for all the people who take advantage of others because one way or the other the truth always comes out.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

With California, as a state, having the second highest unemployment rate in the country and with its economy showing no signs of recovering from the sub-prime hang over, SF is going to donate city owned land to further the formation of a cooperative benefiting, in large part, illegal immigrants. Does this make SF complicit in the crimes committed by the illegal employment that will occur should this scheme come to fruition?

How is the payroll going to be rectified given a majority of those to be employed have no legal right to work in this country. Are we to see ICE raiding City Hall for its complicity in illegal hiring practices? That would be rich.

Simple analogy. I want use of your swimming pool. My history in this town, city, county, state predates your own, or at least my simplistic version of a history demands such. I don't have a swimming pool only because you bought property that did. Now I'm deprived the use of that pool as you have usurped my 'historical' rights. I didn't contribute to the creation of the pool. I don't contribute to the maintenance of the pool. And I have no intent in doing so. But still I have 'rights' that allow me to jump your fence and use your pool whenever I so desire.

"Batches, we don need no stink'n batches! (Treasure of the Sierra Madres)

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2011 @ 9:54 pm

OMG, I leave this site for 24 hours and come back to find some of the most vile, racist dreck imaginable. Some of these comments deserve to be deleted IMHO, especially the racist remarks about Mexican people. My word, these commenters make Arthur Evans (almost) look like a reasonable person by comparison.

Posted by Lisa on Aug. 24, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

"especially the racist remarks about Mexican people."

Posted by meatlock on Aug. 24, 2011 @ 8:15 pm

since you subscribe to the views of hate groups like FAIR, you must be a real specialist by now

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 4:10 pm


Make sense.

Posted by meatlock on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

When rational people make rational statements, it's bound to confuse you.
You are what you are.
No need to be ashamed or frustrated.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 26, 2011 @ 7:14 pm