After two and a half years of fighting for justice, southern California carwasheros celebrated a big win today. Two of the most unrepentant abusers of carwash workers’ rights—the Pirian brothers, Benny and Nissan, have each been sentenced to one year in jail for labor law violations.
“Today marks an important step on the path out of poverty for tens of thousands of carwash workers in Los Angeles in the fight for respect on the job for tens of thousands of carwash workers,” said Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor.
These carwash owners are on notice that this is a new day in Los Angeles. Abuse of workers will no longer go unchecked.
Durazo joined a rally with members of the Community-Labor-Environmental Action Network (CLEAN) at the Vermont Hand Wash, one of the Pirians’ four carwashes in the Los Angeles area.
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Henry Huerta, director of the CLEAN Carwash Campaign, praised the workers’ determination.
The Pirian brothers were held accountable because workers…collectively stood up for their rights and for better conditions on the job. Their efforts to organize for a voice are finally bringing accountability to the carwash industry.
The brothers pleaded no contest last Friday to criminal charges including conspiracy, grand theft and labor code violations. In addition to the jail time, the brothers will be placed on four years’ probation and were ordered to pay back wages in an amount yet to be determined.
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The Pirians will remain on probation for four years, during which time, their carwash operations must keep their payroll and health and safety-related records open for inspection, without notice, by city and state officials to ensure continued compliance with the judge’s order.
In February 2009, the Los Angeles City Attorney filed criminal charges against the Pirians and one of their carwash managers, Manuel Reyes, for their treatment of workers at their four carwashes. The charges included 220 counts of criminal misconduct such as conspiracy, grand theft and failure to pay wages. Charges against the manager include witness intimidation, brandishing a deadly weapon and sexual battery. Reyes’ case has not yet been tried.
Bosbely Reyna, a union supporter who was fired from Vermont Hand Wash, summed up the mostly immigrant workers’ effort to finally gain a voice on the job and fair treatment:
I want to say to all carwasheros that what happened to the owners of this carwash means there is justice for us workers. We are going to keep fighting until we have a union, because that’s the only way that we are going to have real justice on the job.