New Report Reveals the Filth of Chicago’s Car Wash Industry
Juan is a Chicago car wash worker. Describing his profession to an audience of workers, activists, press and clergy yesterday, he called his place of employment “an extremely abusive place to work,” and detailed his experiences with a bullying owner, working overtime without proper compensation and his employer’s tendency to keep all tips.
Like many in his industry, Juan’s voice is rarely heard. “People are worried that if they speak up, they will lose their employment,” said Alison Dickson Quesada, a labor education specialist at the University of Illinois’ School of Labor and Employment Relations. Quesada helped conduct a University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)-based study on the violations of workers’ rights in Chicago car washes. Titled “Clean Cars, Dirty Work,” [PDF] the study, headed by UIC labor professor Robert Bruno, found that the average car wash worker loses an annual $4,413.24—about one-third of his yearly income—to wage theft.