From My Home to Yours

Let’s Pass our Checks to Local Families in Crisis !

Just one individual federal stimulus check will provide life-sustaining resources to at least two local families in crisis.

Donate here:

Low-wage and immigrant families in CWJ’s network have given our community so much.  

The workers at the heart of the Center for Worker Justice network play an essential role in Eastern Iowa’s economy. Our work powers local restaurants, hotels and construction. We care for children, seniors, and people with disabilities. We clean stores and offices throughout the night.

Working side-by-side with our interfaith and labor allies, we have led efforts to raise the minimum wage for all workers, increase access to affordable housing, host community education programs, and bring new food, ideas, and energy to this place we are proud to call home.

Now, in this global pandemic, many of our families are in crisis – with NO safety net.  

Many immigrant families in our network are not eligible for unemployment or federal stimulus funds. These are families that were working multiple jobs just to survive – whose minimum wages don’t provide enough to save for a rainy day, and who now have no income to pay for rent, utilities, or basic needs.  

That’s why CWJ allies are launching a campaign to pass along our federal stimulus checks to our neighbors who need them most!

Our goal is to pass along payments of $400-$600 per family to local community members in crisis, starting with those who are ineligible for any assistance. CWJ will distribute 100% of these COVID-19 crisis donations directly to local families who need them, with oversight from a committee of leaders.…

Filling the Gaps in Public Health

Because none of us is safe unless all of us are safe.

The COVID-19 crisis is an urgent reminder that everyone in our communities is interconnected. The safety and future of every one of us depend on each other, and an injury to one is truly an injury to all. This national emergency exposes the serious gaps in our workplace standards, our health care system, our access to affordable housing, and our food security. NOW, in the midst of this crisis – each sector must implement emergency changes for the safety of our community. On behalf of low-wage workers across our community, the Center for Worker Justice (CWJ) calls on employers, landlords, and government agencies to implement the following emergency standards for the sake of all our grandparents, friends, and loved ones:

We call on LOCAL EMPLOYERS to take emergency action:

  • 14 paid sick days. There is currently unprecedented bi-partisan agreement that employers must implement emergency sick days, so that sick workers in restaurants, nursing homes, childcare facilities, and other workplaces can stay home and avoid infecting others without financial ruin. While legislation is being debated that will provide employers tax credits and other incentives, we call on local employers to voluntarily implement an immediate policy providing 14 fully-paid sick days for workers who are 1) themselves sick or, 2) caring for sick family members or, 3) caring for children whose schools or child care facilities have closed.
  • No attendance-related discipline during the COVID-19 crisis. The low-wage workers we represent rely on our work in order to live. Many do not qualify for unemployment or public assistance. They do not miss work if they can possibly avoid it. But the COVID-19 crisis has created daily disruptions beyond workers’ control and will affect their childcare, schools, and lives in unexpected ways. This week Amazon – not known as a leader in workers’ rights – announced that it will issue no attendance points during the month of March. We call on local employers to honor a moratorium on attendance-related discipline during the COVID-19 crisis.

We call on LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND HOSPITALS to take emergency action:

  • Universal access to COVID-19 testing and related health care. Many low-wage workers in our community lack access to health care, do not qualify for Medicaid or “Obamacare”, and rely on the Free Medical Clinic, county public health programs, and charity programs of local hospitals as their only source of medical attention. People will not get the essential testing and care they need if they fear financial ruin as a result of their care. We call on our local governments and hospitals to provide free, universal COVID-19 testing and related health care and look forward to meeting with leaders of these programs to ensure that they are provided in a way that is culturally responsive and accessible to all.
  • Emergency funding for food banks and basic supplies during the crisis. Those who can afford it have been stockpiling food, toilet paper, and cleaning products – but many families cannot afford this luxury.

CWJ had recovered almost $90,000 until today !

Read an article about some of the work that we do on The Gazette Newspaper :

New data shows Iowans filed more than 600 unpaid wage claims, with limited success, in 2019

Franz Dunsworth said he was “hurting for work” when he began his third stint with Jet Services last fall.

The Ainsworth, Iowa, native said he worked about 50 hours before the home improvement company failed to issue paychecks to three co-workers, and later Dunsworth himself.

He said he left the job after several days and excuses received about the non-payments. It wasn’t until later, however, Dunsworth realized Jet Services also had not reported his hours and wages to the state, inhibiting him from claiming unemployment benefits.

Unbeknown to Dunsworth while he was working, the company also was not contributing to his union’s health and welfare fund. Because of that, he said he has not sought therapy or tried to have a child with his girlfriend.

“We just kept working and thought everything was peachy,” he said. “Then, when all the money dried up, it was like, oh yeah, we were getting screwed three different ways.” Here is the link:

Honoring Diane Finnerty

Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa would like to honor and remember our great friend Diane Finnerty, who passed away on December 29. A memorial service to celebrate Diane’s life will be held on Sunday, January 26, 2020, at 1:00 pm at The Park Lodge at the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area located on 579 McCollister Blvd, Iowa City, IA 52240. 

Diane’s work with CWJ was just one of the many ways that Diane worked tirelessly for social justice and equitable communities. She advocated against discrimination as Commissioner for the Iowa City Human Rights Commission and served on the statewide planning committee for Strengthening and Valuing Latino Communities. She also worked on the RAICES Project, a multi-year campus/community collaboration to build Latino capacity in rural communities. In addition, Diane’s work in local politics helped to elect the first Sudanese Iowa City Council member, Mazahir Salih. Diane was also committed to creating a more inclusive campus community at the University of Iowa, where she worked for 25 years. 

In lieu of flowers, Diane has designated that donations can be directed to her son Jorgito’s Educational Fund (ugift code R0K-J8D), the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, or to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.

Here is the link to donate in Honor Dinne Finnerty to CWJ

Caucus Training

Be an active participant in the Iowa Caucuses. Make your voice heard.

This is what democracy looks like!

How do the caucuses work? What you need to know.

How have the rules changed?

Help shape a platform that represents the concerns of immigrants and low wage workers.

— On immigration

— On wage theft and a minimum wage

— On affordable housing for all

— On workers’ rights

for the Platform Committee,

for leadership in your precinct.

Where: Mill Restaurant

120 East Burlington Street, Iowa City, Iowa

When:  January 21, 6:00-7:30 PM

Make an impact on our community, and have your voice heard at our Non-Partisan Caucus training event!

Dream for Economic Independency

For the last year, CWJ members have shared their recipes, flavors, ingredients in our community.

We were able to empower aspiring restaurant owners’ to create unique dishes from their diverse backgrounds. Exploring cultures and flavors from the Middle East and South America we were able to connect through our shared passion for food. Together we tried exotic cuisines prepared by our members while helping them explore successful dishes for their future restaurants. We would like to thank all of the chefs for preparing meals for us and letting us learn about their cultures as well as all of the attendees at the event; it is with your help that we are able to fund these chefs and events.  Help us to start this dream:

7th CWJ Anniversary!

We had an excellent night celebrating its Seventh Anniversary and Fourth Annual Gala Fundraiser this past Saturday, October 5th; We are so grateful to have shared food, music, and conversation with our many friends and supporters in the community.

We began the night by hearing from CWJ’s Executive Director, Rafael Morataya. We were pleased to welcome representatives from the campaigns of Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Bernie Sanders to talk about these candidates’ commitment to the working people of Iowa. We also heard from our Community Organizer and City Council Member, Mazahir Salih, among other longtime supporters of CWJ.

Attendees of the Gala enjoyed a homemade dinner of Mexican, Guatemalan, and Sudanese foods. For dessert, we had the delicious cakes prepared by Maria Cachua.

Throughout the evening, we enjoyed music from the band Tropicante. We also had a large range of silent auction items for the guests to peruse, donated by supporters in the community.

We would like to thank everyone who attended. Our mission to achieve equality in work, education, and housing would not be possible without our supporters.

Read the 7th Year Report:

Restaurant Employees Demand Unpaid Wages

North Liberty, Iowa: A coalition of community members took action on Thursday, September 12 in support of two North Liberty workers who are victims of “wage theft” – when workers aren’t paid the wages they are legally owed.

Wenceslao Mendez and Norma Diaz quit working at BeerBurger in North Liberty after their payroll checks bounced. In July of 2019, Wenceslao received a payroll check which was returned due to Non-Sufficient Funds. His wife, Norma, had the same experience in August of 2019.

The couple turned to the Center for Worker Justice (CWJ) for assistance. CWJ sent a letter to the management of BeerBurger on the couple’s behalf, demanding payment of wages, plus reimbursement for bank fees. BeerBurger issued two more checks, which also bounced. The couple is still waiting on these wages.

“Workers depend on their pay to provide for themselves and their families. A missed paycheck can mean unpaid bills, missed meals, and the loss of cars and homes. This is completely unacceptable in our community,” says CWJ Community Organizer Mazahir Salih.

With support from the Center for Worker Justice, Norma and Wenceslao are standing up to demand their unpaid wages.

Check the online article here:

You are Invited, Gala 2019

We invite you to celebrate with CWJ as we reach our Seventh Anniversary and Fourth Annual Gala Fundraiser!

Since last year’s Gala, we have recovered $15,000 in wages lost from wage theft, bringing our grand total recovered over $80,000

CWJ members have taken the initiative to create a social enterprise with the goal of opening a café using family recipes, transmitted by generations.     This year menu includes food from Mexico, Guatemala, and Sudan.

Our annual gala will be held on October 5th, 2019 at 5:30 PM and will feature 2020 presidential candidates and a menu from our social enterprise! Tickets go fast, so please purchase them here! 

 Sponsorship is available at the levels of:

 Solidarity Supporter at $250,

Worker Rights Defender at $500,

Presidential Candidate Sponsorship for meet and greet before the event, $500,

Economic Justice Champion at $1000. 

Tickets and Sponsorship levels are available clickings here!

What: Fourth Annual Gala
Where: 2355 Oakdale Road, Coralville, IA
When: October 5th, 2019, 5:30 PM

Check our Facebook Event here

Your support will help us continue to do the important work of bringing

equity to Eastern Iowa and beyond.…

Hundreds rally at Lights for Liberty vigil in Cedar Rapids

Take a look at the Media Articles from the Lights for Liberty Vigil in Cedar Rapids on July 12: