Community ID Celebrates 4 Years

CWJ is proud to celebrate 4 years of the Community ID

The ID was established to ensure that all members of our diverse community are welcomed and can participate fully in the economic and social life of our county.

The Johnson County Community ID can be used in a wide variety of day-to-day interactions, such as to:

  • Open a bank account in participating banks
  • Confirm your identify when using credit cards
  • Get a library card
  • Interact with schools, city and county agencies, and law enforcement officials
  • Participate in discount programs offered by selected community businesses and institutions

The Johnson County Community ID cannot be used to: get a driver’s license, board an airplane, purchase alcohol or tobacco, enter establishments with age restrictions, prove employment eligibility, or vote.

Join us on Saturday June 8 from 9 am to Noon to get your new Community ID at CWJ , check our Facebook event:

Commitment to Our Future

In an era of serious challenges for low-wage residents, the Center for Worker Justice is celebrating several victories this week – and local community members are stepping up to help support its continued success. On Tuesday, the Iowa City Council voted unanimously in support of a groundbreaking affordable housing agreement, which residents of the Forest View mobile home park negotiated over the past three years with support from CWJ. Read the links from the Vote:

And as part of its ongoing worker justice initiatives, CWJ staff assisted workers this week in recovering over $1,400 in unpaid compensation for their cleaning work at a local jobsite. CWJ leaders say these victories are also indicative of today’s challenges – while local incidents of wage theft, housing insecurity, and acts of discrimination are on the rise, national grants to support the work of groups like CWJ are becoming more scarce.…

Mobil Clinic at CWJ

We all know how difficult it is to go to the hospital or see a doctor, that is why we have made a partnership with the mobile clinic of the university and hope that one day we can expand the services they offer to our community, we share several photos of the last clinic in our Center.

Community United Against Rent Increase

CWJ, TeamCan, Teamsters & other Allies are supporting Gulfview Residents, we’re sharing an article about it:

According to Golfview resident Don Lund, the meeting at the North Liberty Recreation Center on Friday, April 5 was standing room only. More than 100 people met to hear from Mazahir Salih of the Center for Worker Justice and Jesse Case of Teamsters Local 238.

Achieving a Dream

On February 21, 2019, the Iowa City zoning commission meeting was packed with people, lining the walls and filling all of the available seats. There were two items on the agenda for the members of the commission to discuss that night; the most significant being the rezoning of the Forest View mobile home park. The majority of people in the room were residents of Forest View and the surrounding neighborhoods, and had come tonight to speak about the project and the effect that it would have on their community.

To begin the meeting, the proposed development was described, and all of the new changes implemented in newer designs were explained. The plan is to create a commercial center on the middle to eastern side of the property, where the mobile homes currently are, and is set to include a gas station, restaurants, and possibly a hotel. The mobile homes will be replaced with manufactured homes, and the residential area will be relocated to the far west side of the property. The neighborhood side of Forest View will have community recreational areas and senior housing as well.

But what makes this development so impactful to the residents, and so necessary to get underway, is its plan for affordable long term housing. The manufactured homes will have a low monthly rent that if the residents pay for 15 years, will eventually transfer into ownership of their homes. For many, this would be their first chance to become homeowners, as well as to own a permanent home within a community that is central to the way they live their lives. Forest View residents spoke about how their strong community of neighbors was why they chose to live in the mobile home park in the first place; and it’s the reason now that they remain invested in this development, even after three years of uncertainty.

What struck me the most, after hearing the long, dry explanation from both the commission members and the developers at the beginning of the meeting, was how different “three years” sounded coming from them than it did when it came from the residents of Forest View. The first person to approach the stand to speak was a resident of the neighborhood for over 40 years. She described the excitement she remembers feelings when the developers first came to her and her neighbors. She had never owned a home before, and this was an unbelievable opportunity for her to do so and still be within the community that she loved. But, she went on, one year turned into two. Then three. Now, with no end in sight to the delays and the reconsiderations that plague the development plans, she, along with the countless other neighbors she’s lived next to for years, is having her mobile home fall apart around her from old age.

More and more residents came up and echoed her concerns. Many spoke about how long the development was taking to be set into motion, and how important it was that the zoning commission make concrete decisions to finalize its construction.…

Empower Communities


CWJ is able to continue Social Change with the Social Justice and Racial Equity Grant that we received. We wanted to offer classes in which the students could learn new skills and apply them to their everyday life. We wanted to offer them skills that they could then use to help themselves become sustainable. With that goal in mind, we decided to start our fall sewing classes. The class became a ten-week program that consisted of each student getting their own sewing machine, along with them getting to know its parts and how it works. The class also consisted of small sewing projects that began after the students learned the sewing machine basics. At the end of the ten weeks, the students were rewarded with the sewing machines and were able to take them home to continue sewing and learning. Our first class began in September 2018 with 14 women signing up. For the women who didn’t speak English we had interpreters for them each week. Every week we could see these skills slowly start to develop through the small sewing projects and the women loved it.

Take a look at the video on the following link from the classes:

For the Love of our Children

It was 2002, and the tragedies of September 11, 2001 were still fresh and raw in everyone’s hearts and minds. And I was reading, for the first time of many, Hannah Arendt’s classic study of the patterns of thought and behavior leading up to the Holocaust, The Origins of Totalitarianism. In particular, I had just finished reading a section on the ways medieval Christians had dealt with the high infant and child mortality rate of the time: by blaming the Jews. Stories of ritual child murder, sacrifice, and cold-hearted torture by Jews were rampant. Child disappearance and death, to many Christians, was too awful to contemplate, so when offered an easy explanation for it–an enemy, a place for their anger and grief–many accepted it.

I turned to my young husband, childless like me, and said, “Let’s make a promise. When we have children, we will never use them to perpetrate or excuse injustice.”

Real parenthood has a way of testing our ideals. Many of us are perfect parents before we have actual children. We swear we will not be the parents whose kids watch hours of TV, or make separate meals for each child because they don’t like what we’ve made, or send a kid to school with mismatched socks or unbrushed teeth. And sometimes parenthood tests even our highest ideals. What happens when we believe in diversity in education, but face the reality that our neighborhood school may be stressful and difficult for our kids for reasons outside of academics? What do we do when we believe that everyone gets to do what they want with their own bodies, but our chain-smoking aunt reaches for our medically fragile newborn? Or when exposure to a different culture also means exposure to values that might not match our own?

In 2006, when my son was born, I got to answer many of those questions for myself. I am a Quaker and a committed pacifist, and yet, before even leaving the hospital, I knew that if anyone ever came for my child, I would be willing to kill. When a person becomes a parent, their most important job becomes keeping their child alive, full stop. I have, thankfully, never been placed in that position, but at least at the level of ideals, my pacifism stops where direct threats to my children start.

People in power, especially those who face threats to that power, understand deeply the human instinct to protect children. For those of us who are parents, our single greatest fear is that our children will be harmed. This is not hypothetical–childhood illness, abuse, and murder happen on a regular basis. Parenthood can become our greatest vulnerability when it comes to exploitation by powerful people, because threats to our children are real and ever-present. When someone offers simple, clear-cut reasons for the awful things that happen, it can feel good, for a little while, to have a place to direct our anger and grief.

But while parenthood can become our Achilles’ heel, it doesn’t have to completely short-circuit our highest ideals or render us unable to use logic.

Immigration as our Legacy

One of my earliest memories as a little girl in the Midwest in the early 1980s is of the smell of graham crackers. But it wasn’t from our pantry–it was from the backseat of our car, where I sat next to a woman wrapped in colorful fabric, quietly looking out the window at her new country. My mother was driving a Vietnamese woman, a recent immigrant and refugee, to the fabric store to purchase material so that she could make clothing for family, likely facing a harsh Illinois winter for the very first time.

The scent of the blend of spices that infused the garments the Vietnamese woman–probably cinnamon and coriander–was at once familiar and foreign to me, as was the fabric she used to make her clothing. My mother, too, smelled of the things she cooked for us, and she made our clothes. These were tangible proof of her love and care for me as a child. I understood at a very young age the fundamental connection that mothers have with all other mothers.

I grew up with the stories of people who had undergone considerable hardships to gain the safety and security that I got for free just by being born in the United States to parents who were citizens and who looked like the majority of people around them. I heard of a boy, just ten, who had swum across the Mekong River, bullet scars on his back from the shots intended to stop him. And families did not always come to our community intact; often they had had to leave others behind, or had lost spouses, children, aunts, uncles, and cousins along their escape routes, with no time or space for burials and funerals.

The Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees who settled in our communities and helped shape life in the Midwest in the 1980s were not strangers to us. They were fellow human beings in crisis. They became part of the fabric of our lives. We ate together, sewed together, laughed and cried together. Together we felt the cold wind of winter and huddled against the evils of greed, violence, and war. We connected their stories to the stories from our own histories, of great-great-grandparents hiding in caves in Germany to escape religious violence, of the sounds of soldiers’ boots and the ache of missing familiar smells and tastes handed down to us.

The rhetoric of the immigrant as a threat to our communities is unfamiliar to me at a visceral level, even though I understand that this is also, unfortunately, part of our legacy as well. My immigrant ancestors did not always greet the “other” with warm and accepting arms, but often with suspicion and even violence. The Midwest as it is today was made possible by the murder and displacement of millions of native peoples and the systematic oppression of the descendents of slaves.

We can choose which parts of our legacy as Americans we want to nurture, and which we need to be on guard not to perpetuate.