Blaming too few students signed up for the class, the Iowa City Community School District has decided to cancel the Ethnic Studies elective course scheduled for the upcoming trimester.
Brought about amid protests last school year, the student organization Students Against Hate and Discrimination (SAHD) negotiated the addition of this Social Justice class with the School Board after instances of racial discrimination prompted a school walk-out. “We were devastated because we’ve been demanding and begging and pleading [for the class] and they said yes and got our hopes up,” stated student Lajayn Hamad to KCRG 9 News.
Yet despite their promise to students, the district has decided to cancel the class, Kingsley Botchway, ICCSD Director of Equity and Engagement stating the “district requires at least 24 students for a new class.” Student Lajayn Hamad reported to KCRG News, however, that “other classes at City High have as few as five students [and] the district has made exceptions in the past.”
Here at the Center for Worker Justice, we value and celebrate diversity in our community. After receiving reports from multiple community members of racially-charged messages and harassment, the CWJ participated in a forum as a member of the Johnson County Interfaith Cluster that met with city leaders, faith groups, and local police to address this unacceptable bigotry.
“We believe that we live in a progressive city and that we have values so it’s important to talk about that,” said the Center for Worker’s Justice Executive Director Rafael Morataya to KCRG News. “We definitely need to send a message to those hate groups.”
After hearing from the community during this forum, city leaders and police reaffirmed their commitment to condemning all forms of racism and bigotry.
For more information, read the articles linked below from KCRG News and Press-Citizen:
Over 100 businesses have committed to honoring a livable wage within our community – but we’re not going to stop there. Every day, we’re working to make sure that number grows, and working to make sure that each worker in our community is getting what they need and deserve.
Click the headline for the full list of businesses so far, alphabetically organized. Want to support our fight? Donate here!
“The foot of charity is well-received in society because it generates a “feel good — one with humanity” kind of sentiment in us. It is socially acceptable because it is practiced by saints, religious organizations, civic groups and well-intentioned individuals. The hallmarks of charity are food pantries, bus-tickets, homeless shelters, and handouts that satisfy the immediate needs of people.
The foot of justice, on the other hand, is not always so well accepted, and its effects not so immediate or obvious. Justice addresses the root causes of hunger, homelessness and poverty. It can be controversial, because it is practiced by organizers, activists and prophets. The hallmarks of justice are community organizing, advocacy and political involvement. Justice looks for long-term results…..
….By law, employers can revert to paying the old minimum wage. But legal and moral are not necessarily synonymous. No, there are moral implications as to how we treat workers, how we invest in our community and how we promote the common good. These are the questions employers should be asking themselves and these are the questions consumers need to be asking before frequenting certain businesses. And more to the point, in the downward spiral of wages, who is it that has to bear the brunt of the kind of regressive legislation we are seeing in 2017?”
Case came to the CWJ in April for help in recovering over $400 in unpaid wages owed by her former employer – money needed for car payments, groceries, and other essentials. After working with us and out supporters, she was able to receive pay for her missing hours.
Wage theft and abuse has no place in our community, and even one instance of it is too many. In April of this year, the Center for Worker Justice helped recover over $1000 in unpaid wages, in part of our efforts to demand better for our workers and our community.
We’ve been hard at work asking local businesses to commit to continuing to support our community by paying at least $10.10 wage to all their workers, irregardless of what happens in Des Moines. For the full, continually updating list, follow this link or click the headline above:
Writing for the Gazette, Mitchell Schmidt has detailed our ongoing efforts to urge local businesses to continue paying their workers a living wage, to continue to offer the same level of economic support that members of our community rely upon to provide for themselves and their families. So far, we’ve heard from fifteen different businesses that they were going to commit to paying $10.10 an hour, and we’re continuing day in and day out to make that number as high as possible.
Our community organizer Mazahir Salih has been working since earlier this week asking businesses to make these commitments. Schmidt writes:
Salih, [community organizer for] the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, recently began meeting with downtown Iowa City business owners to encourage them to stick with any wage increases established by the county’s minimum wage ordinance, which first passed in 2015.
“We hope they continue to pay the Johnson County minimum wage, that’s our hope right now. We don’t have another choice,” Salih said. “We believe that those in Des Moines, they are not the residents of Johnson County.”
Earlier this week, Salih began asking business owners not only to keep current wages above $10.10 an hour, but also to pledge to hire all future employees at that rate or higher — essentially acting as if the county’s ordinance still were in effect.
Those who agree are given a poster that states they support the county’s ordinance.
Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, last week said he suspected majority Republicans were pressing ahead with the pre-emption bill to beat Polk County’s April 1 implementation date in boosting the minimum wage there to $8.75 an hour.
So far, Salih said she has heard from 15 businesses who intend to keep wages above $10.10 per hour.
“I just really appreciate the businesses in the downtown area who say they are going to keep it at $10.10,” she said. “It makes a big difference in (employees’) lives. They are able to buy enough food for their children, they can buy new clothes for them.”
Asking anyone to live off of $7.25 – just $14,500 a year – is absurd, let alone asking anyone to support a family on such an income. On March 8th, we gathered to call on local businesses to honor the Johnson County minimum wage of $10.10, irregardless of whatever happens because of bills such as House File 295, which would roll back important victories regarding the minimum wage and also prevent any passage of laws relating to worker’s rights, housing discrimination, and some environmental regulations, all issues which disproportionately affect some of our community’s most vulnerable – and valuable – members.
Writing for The Gazette, columnist Paul Street makes the argument about the importance of fighting to protect gains in minimum wage, by breaking down the cost of living in Iowa City to show what a living wage would truly look like in Eastern Iowa, and attacking the callous cruelty of state legislators in Des Moines who are currently trying to remove our local legislature’s ability to set a local minimum wage that meets the needs of our community.
“How coldly Dickensian is it, then, for the reigning Republicans in Des Moines to be moving ahead with a state bill (House File 295) that would nullify the recent county-level minimum wage increases and pre-empt local and county jurisdictions from passing any such measures again in the future? HF295 recently passed in the Iowa House.
HF295 sponsor Rep. John Landon (R-Ankeny) says that his measure seeks to create “a level playing field” in all Iowa communities. “This comes,” he told the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “because of the patchwork effect that it creates on trying to operate businesses that are multicounty, that are multistate. It makes it difficult to keep track of each and every initiative that is passed that would impact that business as far as wages or other conditions.”
Does Landon really think Iowa employers are incapable of adjusting compensation to city- and country-level ordinances among other factors that create different labor markets across locales? Does it not matter to him that it costs considerably more to live in Iowa City and Des Moines than in Red Oak or Fort Dodge? Does he really want to begrudge a full-time American worker the right to make at least $20,000 a year, giving employers the right to push that annual income back as far as $14,500? How about passing a uniform state increase in the minimum wage?”
WHAT: International Woman’s Day of Action with CWJ
WHEN: 4:30PM, Wednesday, March 8, 2017
WHERE: Ped Mall, 201 Dubuque St, Iowa City, IA 52240
Corporate lobbyists representing big banks, hotel chains, and grocery stores are backing House File 295 in the Iowa statehouse that would lower our minimum wage and prohibit cities and counties from passing laws relating to workers’ rights, housing discrimination, and some environmental regulations.
The majority of minimum wage workers are women. Many women led the struggle for a higher wage two years ago. Women’s labor is worth more than poverty wages.
We want answers from the businesses who fund and serve on the boards of these groups – such as HyVee, Fareway, Casey’s, Wells Fargo, West Bank, MidWest One, Iowa City Sheraton, Fairfield Inn, and Coralville Marriott. We are your workers and customers. We call on all our local businesses to:
Take a public stand – oppose House File 295 slashing pay, civil rights
Pledge to maintain our local minimum wage of $10.10/hour
Our community has seen firsthand how the broken U.S. immigration system can lead to devastation after months of confusion, anxiety, and heartbreak. We know the American Dream cannot survive without the hard work and contributions of immigrant workers and families. Take these 5 steps this week to join CWJ and protect immigrant workers.
Friday, 3pm, at the Pentacrest, Immigrants are Here to Stay! Join CWJ, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Iowa Action and Student Engagement. Stand with students, international and domestic, to demand action from University President Bruce Harreld to protect students left vulnerable to future immigration legislation or executive orders.
Invite a friend! Grab a new friend and join the rallies or get them to a meeting. If marching in the street has made them nervous, introduce them to the other ways to get involved by taking the Response Team survey or coming to the Saturday Membership Meeting.
Donate to CWJ! Our work is made possible by the donations of individuals who believe that all peoples, regardless of race, income, immigration status, or religion, deserve equal opportunities. Support our work by becoming a monthly donor today!
From Sudan to Mexico, from Laos to Syria, or from anywhere else to Iowa, all peoples regardless of nationality deserve dignity and respect. Attacks on these principles cannot be tolerated and we must hold our representatives accountable to these core beliefs. At CWJ, we have been keeping a careful on the developments at the statehouse and out of Washington and stand evermore determined to fight back as legislators and administrators push policies that would be devastating to Iowan workers. We have heard the whispers and investigate for any truth in the rumors surrounding potential immigration raids in the Iowa City area. (As of right now, none have taken place, but we are keeping a close eye on activities as reports are released. If you hear of any information, please let us know.)