10/26/2011 01:10 pm ET | Updated Dec 25, 2011

Car Wash Workers Win First-Ever Union Rights

Workers at a Southern California car wash won a union contract Tuesday, making them the first unionized car-wash employees in the country.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the contract with Bonus Car Wash in Santa Monica, Calif., will cover thirty workers and give them a two-percent annual raise. The unionization means the employer will also have to closely follow labor laws, giving workers mandatory breaks and letting them clock in as soon as they report for work, rather than when customers arrive.

A 2008 Los Angeles Times investigation on car washes in car-crazy Southern California revealed that 92 percent of carwasheros were undocumented, with some earning as little as $1.63 an hour. Car wash workers have complained that they are not given gloves or goggles to clean tire rims with acid.

Despite the labor victory, some questioned whether many more car washes could be unionized, given that most are owned by individuals rather than large companies, meaning unions would have to organize them one by one.

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