(Dave Campbell, Secretary Treasurer of the United Steelworkers Local 675)
Yesterday was May 1st, which is often referred to as May Day. For several years now, May Day marches have focused on the need for real comprehensive immigration reform, worker rights and the importance of community organizing. Yesterday was that and more. Thousands took to the streets of Los Angeles and across the country in a show of solidarity and resistance against the current policies of a fear-mongering White House.
Robert Lee Ahn, who is running to represent the 34th Congressional District, is the poster child for everything we fight against.
In an era of Trump, it is vital that our values stretch towards community. We in the labor movement consider May Day as a day to come together to stand for our values. We come together to stand for the right to organize. We come together to stand for fair wages. We come together to stand for fairness and justice in the workplace and we come together to hold those in places of power, like our government, accountable.
The 34th Congressional District is one of the most progressive in the state, a deep blue Democratic seat—one that should be held by a champion of labor and a champion of everyday hard-working Angelenos.
Carwasheros are real people with families they care for, some, are of mixed legal status and they work in a deeply exploitative industry, often ten hours a day, six days a week and with no overtime pay. Workers are paid below the minimum wage, sometimes on tips alone earning as little as $30-$40 a day - fueling an unjust underground economy. Workers are exposed to water and dangerous chemicals without protective gear making their work environment a health and safety hazard and many have reported suffering from kidney, respiratory and nerve damage.
We, in the labor movement, could not allow for Angelenos to be treated with such injustice. Not in our city, not on our watch.
Robert Lee Ahn was a Republican until 2012. He stood idly by through the years of Newt Gingrich, George Bush, Mitt Romney, and the like, never thinking to change parties, become an independent, or even speak out against his fellow Republicans. Why might you ask did he stay so quiet?
While the Tea Party was fueling their hate filled fire, Robert Lee Ahn and his pals were part of the most egregious wage theft Los Angeles had seen in a long, long time. It all started at a car wash called Auto Spa Express, Inc.
In addition to a laundry list of anti-worker violations, Auto Spa Express, Inc. failed to pay the State minimum wage and overtime to their employees as required by the labor code. When the workers tried to organize and fight for their wages, they were fired by Auto Spa Express, Inc. One of these workers was my friend, Custodio Camacho.
All I wanted was to be paid for the time I worked—Custodio Camacho, Former Employee, Auto Spa Express, Inc.
Auto Spa Express, Inc. was owned by a man named Jonathan Min Kim and purchased by Robert Lee Ahn’s company, Sunset Alvarado Investors, LLC. After purchasing the bank loan of Auto Spa Express, LLC—a known wage thief in the car wash industry—and acquiring the deed of trust, Robert Lee Ahn’s car wash became known as Sunset Car Wash, LLC.
The people of the State of California, represented by the California Attorney General, brought legal action against Robert Lee Ahn’s car wash because they were liable for multiple years of back wages and fees for hard working Angelenos, such as my friend Custodio Camacho, who worked tirelessly to fight for his wages and his justice.
What do you think Robert Lee Ahn did?
Do you think he did the right thing and pay back the wages of the employees who were fired for organizing? Do you think he at least gave these workers their jobs back? No, he did neither. He did what Republicans do:
He went to court. For a long…long…time…
All I wanted was to be paid for the time I worked and to get my job back. Robert Ahn and the other owners drug everything out in court as long as they could. I was counting on getting the money I was owed, but in the end I only got a very little bit and it was years later. Now he wants to represent me in Congress. If he takes advantage of the people around him, how can he represent the people around him—Custodio Camacho, Former Employee, Auto Spa Express, Inc.
Robert Lee Ahn fought tooth and nail to keep his company from paying a single dollar to the car wash workers like my friend Custodio. Robert Lee Ahn’s response and subsequent appeals delayed the payment to the car wash worker for years.
Robert Lee Ahn chose to pay his lawyers rather than those who cleaned the lawyers’s cars.
Robert Lee Ahn is no different from Donald Trump. They will lie, cheat, and steal just to come off on top.
He was not with us then and he will not be with us if elected. We all deserve better.