How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

The cultural mashup dictionary: Carwashero

Photo by TexasT/Flickr (Creative Commons)

It's a term that's in the news today, so it makes sense to include it as a dictionary entry.

Just as the sound of it suggests, a "carwashero" is someone who works at a car wash, otherwise known in Spanish as a "lava coches", i.e. one who washes cars.

Carwasheros are making headlines this afternoon because they've made some history in Los Angeles, making the city the nation's first to have three unionized car washes. Workers at two South L.A. car washes, the Vermont Car Wash and Nava's Car Wash, have won union contracts, joining a third car unionized car wash in Santa Monica.

The carwasheros, mostly immigrants from Latin America, voted last year to join the United Steelworkers union, organizing as part of a larger effort  that has been trying to curb worker exploitation in what is typically a low-paid and often hazardous occupation.