LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Moving Carwash Workers from Wage Equity to Entrepreneurship

CLEAN's mission of social change and worker empowerment is fulfilled through grassroots organizing, strategic outreach, skills-building workshops & civic action. Through direct organizing, carwasherxs advocacy efforts around job safety, workplace hazards, wage rights, environmental protection and health initiatives. Over the next year, our 2-part strategy plan is to protect workers' wages in countywide cases stemming from the unusually long rainy season in LA in addition to training workers how to build their own mobile carwash businesses.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Income Inequality

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South LA

West LA

South Bay

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

In LA County, an estimated 500 carwashes employ around 10,000 carwasherxs. Car washes are a part of the vast underground economy in car-centric cities across California. Many car washes fail to follow basic labor, health, and safety laws. Long hours in the heat, abrasive and toxic chemicals and no drinking water or refusal of rest breaks are commonplace in car wash businesses. Carwasherxs, or car wash workers, are rarely paid the minimum wage. Many also report working solely for tips -- a flagrant violation of local and federal labor laws. Our daily work is a conscious response to the dire financial crises many carwash workers often experience as evidenced in recent years. Car wash workers are a large segment of our workforce affected by the pandemic as well as climate change. The unusual ongoing storms, rainy and cloudy weather not seasonally found in Los Angeles County and SoCal weather have led to a tremendous drop in the car wash customer base in 2023.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Despite an increasingly hostile and economically challenging environment, carwasherxs are fighting resiliently to change the car wash industry for good. Using our experience gained from the pandemic, car wash workers learned how to get through the employment losses due to the several lockdowns which forced many of them to lose the ability to provide for their families and support them.Three of the soundest strategies we have planned: 1- Wage Equity Campaigns and Cases Our best work lies in holding existing negligent employers accountable. For example, in 2023-24, we are working on researching a case with the Bureau of Field Enforcement (BOFE) involving an employer with 30 workers at two locations. Also, despite the fact that we fought and won the creation of a Wage Restitution Fund, many workers find access to these funds difficult to obtain. Our plan is to streamline and fix these policy implementation issues. 2- Upgraded Car Wash Worker Health & Safety Curriculum: Training workers about health and safety at the workplace which continues to be a problem as COVID created new health standards are often not followed by company owners. 3- Car Wash Mobile Entrepreneurship : We plan to create a new training module on how to register and operate their own mobile car wash. Many car wash workers are more apt to become their entrepreneurs than to continue to work at abusive workplaces. Building off of our CleanWash Mobile Worker Cooperative lessons,

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Our story is also about how to safely bring back workers to their workplaces and the economy. Carwashers are a vital part of that economic engine because once society fully gets back to work, CLEAN members are also known to work in solidarity with vulnerable workers in other exploitative industries. For example, we contributed to the founding of Public Health Councils Program, created by the County to help workers monitor workplace compliance issues with local COVID-19 regulations. In 2020, the Department of Public Health completed studies highlighting four top-risk industries during COVID: food manufacturing, apparel manufacturing, warehousing/ storage and restaurant industries. While CLEAN is not part of these four major industries, we worked in solidarity with other worker centers so the County can create a legislative path for all workers to secure retaliation protection and be eligible for support and funds.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

- Wages reclaimed from the Statewide Worker Wage Restitution Fund - # of new members given onboarding training to the worker center - # of zip codes of workers' residence - # of workers who have undergone the Car Wash Detail 101 Training Program - # of workers who have taken the newly revamped Health & Safety Training - # of workers in legislative visits or meetings with elected officials - # of workers who participate in our Worker Family Wellness Events - # of workers who participate in actions at car wash sites or at city hall or partner events - productive changes to state and local policies streamlining access to Wage Restitution Funds

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 100

Indirect Impact: 5,000