California's Labor Enforcement Task Force (LETF) recently discovered-and shut down-dangerous machinery at seven work sites in Southern California, including four car washes and three manufacturing businesses.
These businesses were putting workers in immediate danger of serious injuries like lacerations, amputations and even fatal injuries. The workers are considered part of the "underground economy," where they are exposed to dangerous job conditions and lack proper protections.
What is the underground economy?
According to the International Monetary Fund, the underground economy (aka the shadow, underground, informal, or parallel economy) refers to "...unreported income from the production of legal goods and services, either from monetary or barter transactions."
According to Wage Justice, some common examples of workers and/or industries in the underground economy are:
- Car wash workers
- Garment industry
- Janitorial workers
- Day laborers
- Port truck drivers
Many times these workers are not paid minimum wage or overtime and are put in dangerous working conditions.
Car washes cited
During its recent investigation, LETF inspectors discovered that the industrial water extractors for towels did not have functioning interlock devices to stop the machines when the door is unlocked or open. The four car washes cited are:
- Pasadena Auto Wash
- Baldwin Park Hand Car Wash
- Star Auto Spa
- Fair Oaks Car Wash
Baldwin Park Hand Car Wash was also fined $6,000 for violating child labor laws, after inspectors found minors working in dangerous occupations.
Manufacturing companies cited
LETF inspectors issued orders to shut down woodworking table saws that were not properly guarded. The three Santa Ana manufacturing companies cited are:
- Maximum Security Safes
- Trinity Window Fashions
- Pierre's Fine Carpentry
Inspectors also issued stop-work orders and cited Trinity Window Fashions $3,000 and Pierre's Fine Carpentry $1,500. These businesses failed to maintain workers' compensation insurance.
What is California's LETF, and what does it do?
According to its website, "LETF is a coalition of California state agencies formed in 2012 to combat the underground economy. The task force operates under the direction of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) and conducts monthly inspections in high-risk industries." It monitors for safety violations, as well as wage, tax and licensing law violations.
Who can workers contact about unsafe conditions?
Workers that feel at risk can contact these numbers:
- 844-LABOR-DIR (844-522-6734): for work-related questions or complaints (in both English and Spanish)
- 866-924-975: the California Workers' Information line provides recorded information in English and Spanish on a variety of work-related topics
What can workers do if they suffer a workplace injury?
An injured employee will have medical bills and may suffer lost wages. Injured workers are typically entitled to workers' compensation benefits, but their employer may not carry workers' comp insurance, even though he or she is required to do so.
To learn more about how you can apply for workers' compensation, visit the U.S. Department of Labor website.