If you think your job stinks, just be glad you’re not a car washer. And no, I don’t mean just in the olfactory sense. Besides working on their feet and knees all day long for a pittance of pay, a new study reveals that most car washing workers are getting hosed, at least in the Chicago area.
Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois, surveyed 204 employees at 57 car washes in Chicago in a new paper recently published. That number makes up roughly one-third of the car wash workforce and 70 percent of full-service car wash establishments in the area.
So you can say he had a pretty good sampling.
After getting past a lot of language barriers, Bruno discovered just how bad the plight of these people is. It’s bad enough having to wash cars all day for minimum wage, but it gets even worse when the owners of the car washes are illegally ripping their employees off. More than three-quarters of the surveyed workers earn less than minimum wage, and a full 13 percent earn less than $2.00 per hour. And while most work more than 80 hours per week, just 2 percent actually earn the legal overtime rate of time-and-a-half.
But that’s not all.
Still more employees were forced to spend their hard-earned money on personal safety equipment that should be free. Others were forced to pay for an over-priced uniform cleaning service through their employer.
Kind of hard to pull yourself up by your bootstraps when you’re getting illegally robbed by your employer. But don’t worry. I’m sure if we dismantle food stamp programs, deregulate the industry, take away what little legal oversight exists, and hike up the workers’ tax rates that they’ll be motivated enough to climb out from under the boot that is stomping on them.