Working at the Car Wash

Working at one of eight car washes owned by Sikder family (known as proprietors of the Los Angeles restaurant Koi) wasn't a particularly good job, according to a lawsuit filed by the state this week. The car washes often didn't pay minimum wage or overtime, didn't grant rest and meal breaks, and created false documents to cover it up, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit has political resonance for two reasons. It was filed by the office of Attorney General Jerry Brown, who is running for governor, and it highlights wage and hour violations, which are part of the attacks launched against Brown's opponent Meg Whitman by her former housekeeper (and Whitman's political critics).

But it's wrong to connect the lawsuit to Brown's campaign. Instead, the lawsuit should be seen in a labor context -- unions are engaged in a campaign to organize workers at car washes around the state, and particularly in Southern California. Highlighting abuses of car wash workers and showing official backing for punishing car wash owners who don't play by the rules are ways of boosting this organizing.

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