A car wash employee in Southern California cleans a truck. (Photo: Screenshot/NBC4)

A car wash employee in Southern California cleans a truck. (Photo: Screenshot/NBC4)

A decade ago in Southern California, some car wash employees were being paid just 80 cents an hour. Years later, unionized workers are making $8.16 per hour with raises on the way.

It all started with an undercover investigation from Los Angeles news station NBC4, which sent a reporter and a hidden camera into the world of underpaid employees. On Tuesday, the station reported, local lawmakers credited that investigation for sweeping reforms that cleaned up the industry.

“They did some undercover reporting, investigative reporting, which they caught on videotape things like owners saying (to workers) ‘don’t check in today, but work,'” Jackie Goldberg, a former state legislator who sponsored a reform bill, said at a recent rally. “Car washes are not only finally giving employees respect and dignity. They are beginning to wash away years of injustice.”

According to the NBC4 report, five more car wash businesses’ employees are getting ready to unionize as wages are set to increase to $9 per hour. You can find a map of the unionized car washes in Southern California by clicking here. The workers are represented by the local steelworkers’ union.

California’s car wash law requires all owners to register with the state and pay a $150,000 surety bond unless they collectively bargain their employees’ contracts. New York is considering similar measures.