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On January 1, 2004, the carwash industry in California was forever changed when AB 1688, better known as the Carwash Worker Law, went into effect. The law was passed in the aftermath of a TV news station’s investigation of Los Angeles carwashes which showed workers were being underpaid and overworked.
Under the law, carwashes are required to register with the state and to document their payroll, and workers may file wage and/or retaliation claims with the Labor Commissioner when they believe their employer has violated employment laws.
California Assemblyman Sandre R. Swanson recently wrote AB 236, the bill to renew and make California’s “Carwash Worker Law” permanent. As this issue was going to press, the renewal bill had passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee and was on its way to a vote by the full Assembly.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing recently spoke to Swanson about why he got involved with the Bill and how he hopes it will protect carwash workers and employers.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: How did you get involved with AB 236, the Carwash Worker Law?
Sandre R. Swanson: Supporters of the original Car Wash Worker Law asked me to carry this legislation. As a representative in an urban area, we have many carwash businesses in my district, so this issue was also important to my constituents.
PC&D: Why have you decided to target the carwashing industry?
SS: AB 236 is about continuing protections that benefits both workers and the businesses that follow the law. The bill makes permanent the existing enforcement program known as the “Car Wash Worker Law.” The original law, AB 1688 (Goldberg), targeted irresponsible carwash owners who failed to comply with the labor laws that existed at the time. Their blatant disregard of the law not only put their workers in danger, it also put responsible business owners at a competitive disadvantage.
PC&D: What exactly is the law and how is it different from AB 1688?
SS: AB 236 makes the "Car Wash Worker Law" permanent. This law established a system of registration, bonding requirements, and enforcement to protect the basic rights of all carwash workers. The law, created by AB 1688 (Goldberg) in 2003, contained a sunset date of January 1, 2007. This date was extended to January 1, 2010, when the Governor signed SB 1468 (Alarcón) in 2006. AB 236 would eliminate the January 1, 2010, sunset date, making the law permanent.
Please note that AB 236 will not affect those who already comply with the law. The bill simply ensures that the bad actors in the carwash industry are penalized for breaking California's Labor Code.
PC&D: How are carwash owners and operators responding to the news regarding the law?
SS: We have not had any complaints from owners and operators. AB 236 had no opposition as it passed through committee.
PC&D: A few California-based carwashes have made the news over the past year, regarding fines and citations for health and safety violations. What kind of message do you want to send to carwash workers out there, to let them know that they are being protected?
SS: I want both carwash workers and owners to know that worker safety is not only important, it is the law. Businesses that ignore these protections not only put lives in danger, but also make it more difficult for honest businesses to compete and succeed. The state and the business community should not tolerate either of these problems. For those who are already following the law, AB 236 will not affect them at all.