Carlos Cuestas: Administrative Relief Can Save My Career, Life and Family
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CLEAN Carwash Campaign
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“There’s no point in claiming lost wages, because of your immigration status you’ll never recover the wages,” said a carwash owner to Carlos Cuestas.
Carlos Cuestas, is a non-union carwash worker and member of the CLEAN Carwash Campaign. He fought to organize his fellow carwasheros after facing wage theft and employer retaliation. His story underscores the need for Administrative Relief now.
“I remember in my last job the owner made us work 11 hours and we would only get paid $35 per day,” said Cuestas. There was no overtime for him or his coworkers. Carwasheros at this location were denied drinking water and expected to pay for their uniforms. On one occasion, Cuestas recalls losing his paycheck. When the employer reprinted the check, the carwash owner deducted $50 to “cover bank fees.”
Feeling exploited, without a “career ladder,” Cuestas joined with other carwasheros under the umbrella of the CLEAN Carwash Campaign. Together they have worked to improve the industry.
Cuestas spoke at a press conference describing the working conditions on his job. His employer saw Cuestas on the TV. Suddenly his employment schedule had changed; he was only scheduled to work 3 hours per day. The owner made a habit of dismissing Cuestas from work without justification. The manager would call Cuestas and tell him that he was trash; his co-workers received abusive phone calls too.
When Cuestas attempted to confront the owner, he was threatened with deportation. “There’s no point in claiming lost wages, because of your immigration status you’ll never recover the money,” said the owner to Cuestas.
Each time Carlos Cuesta or a worker in a similar situation speaks up, they run the risk of being deported. “The threat of deportation is a common practice of employers who profit off of the work of low-wage, undocumented workers,” says Rosemarie Molina of CLEAN Carwash campaign. “They want hard-working people, but many do not want to provide healthy, safe working conditions for their employees. We’re starting to turn that around but policies that support the workers would be a big step forward.”
This is why the CLEAN Carwash Campaign and allies advocate for administrative relief . “If we had administrative relief, we would be able to walk into a government agency to file a claim for stolen wages,” said Cuestas. “With my lost wages, I would be able to improve my family’s quality of life.”