Victory! – Unpaid wages recovered

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.

Who has committed to $10.10?

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:

Bill or no bill, we’re fighting for $10.10

HF 295 – the state bill that would attempt to roll back critical and hard-fought victories regarding the minimum wage and worker’s rights – has past its final hurdle in the Iowa Senate, and is now waiting to be signed by Governor Terry Branstad.

But we’re not waiting for that day.

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.

That ordinance will be abolished if Gov. Terry Branstad signs House File 295, which rolls back higher minimum wage thresholds approved in at least five counties including Johnson and Linn. The bill pre-empts counties from passing higher minimum wage ordinances in the future and reaffirms $7.25 an hour as the state minimum wage.

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.

But some area business owners said they don’t plan to cut raises that were forced by local wage increases.

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.”


Read the full article here:



Employers: stand up for our workers, our values, and honor $10.10

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?”

Read the full article here:

Stand with Iowan Women: Protect Our Wages

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

Take action this Wednesday, 4:30p on the Ped Mall to take a stand on International Woman’s Day. Women’s voices will be heard. 

These 5 Easy Actions Will Support Immigrants This Week

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.

  1. Take our survey to join our Immigration Committee and Response Teams today. This survey takes less than 5 minutes and will get you part of our response team in the case of an ICE raid or other immigration crisis in our area.
  2. 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.
  3. Allies and Members, join our Membership Meeting this Saturday, 1pm, at the Center for Worker Justice. As developments take place rapidly across the nation, members and allies alike are invited to join this Saturday’s monthly membership meeting.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.)

Take our survey to join our Immigration Committee and Response Teams today.

Join the rally Friday at 3pm and our Membership Meeting this Saturday at 1pm to make a difference in the fight for immigrants.

Si se puede!

Iowa: Here To Stay! / ¡Estamos Aqui Para Quedarnos !

Friday, March 3rd, from 3pm-4:30pm on the Pentacrest / Viernes 3 de marzo, de 3pm a 4:30pm en el Pentacrest

Organized by CWJ, CCI, and IASE.

This will be a rally supporting immigrant rights throughout our community: in the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, and all over Iowa.

We will be meeting on the Pentacrest because the University of Iowa President, Bruce Harreld, has remained silent on various student issues, including immigration. We demand him to speak out against the horrible bills in Iowa that would devastate our home state.

Este será un rally de apoyo a los derechos de los inmigrantes en toda nuestra comunidad: en la Universidad de Iowa, en Iowa City, y en todo Iowa.

Nos reuniremos en el Pentacrest porque el presidente de la Universidad de Iowa, Bruce Harreld, ha permanecido en silencio sobre diversos temas estudiantiles, incluyendo la inmigración. Le exigimos que hable en contra de las horribles leyes en Iowa que devastarán nuestro estado .

Specifically, HF265 would force the university, and any public employer, to divulge the immigration statuses of their students or workers.

We cannot allow these draconian laws to take hold; we need Bruce Harreld to protect his students, and we need all of Iowa to stand together against tyrannical law.


Mazahir Salih – President of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa:: Centro de Justicia Laboral

Natalia Espina – One of the founding members of the Eastern Iowa Bond Project:


Current Iowa legislation targeting immigrants: HF265 (formerly HSB67) and the E-Verify bill, SF172:


Iowa Action and Student Engagement Statement:

People’s civil rights in this country are in immediate danger, and have been for a long time.

After months of Islamophobic rhetoric, the President enacted an executive order, calling for the U.S. to ban immigrants from many Muslim-majority countries. This goes against everything this country stands for; and when it comes to immigrants in this country, undocumented or not, the narrative is similar; the President’s administration has made deportation a prominent part of their platform, and now they’re acting on it.

We ask you, the people of Iowa, to come together to rally against these unconstitutional policies due to the destruction they will reap on the lives of our friends and neighbors.

Every person deserves to live without being in a constant state of fear; all immigrants in Iowa deserve to stay.

Enough of Corporate Agenda

More anti-worker, anti-immigrant bills are being rushed through the Iowa state capitol, and it’s important that each of us speak up to our legislators against them. While lawmakers continue to make life easier for billionaire corporations by eliminating rules that protect Iowans, lowering wages, and handing away millions in corporate welfare, they are playing an age-old game of divide and conquer by scapegoating our immigrant brothers and sisters for growing inequality. Please call your legislator today to oppose these bills:

Senate File 172 would make the flawed E-Verify system mandatory for most Iowa employers. This system checks workers’ photos, names, and social security numbers against several federal databases that are riddled with errors due to name changes related to marriage, changes in immigration status that aren’t yet recorded, and typos. It creates a burden for both workers and employers, and is just a complicated duplication of the I-9 system already required in every workplace. It doesn’t raise wages or improve our workplaces and has led to charges of discrimination across the country.

House File 265 would prohibit the state, counties, cities, and state-funded schools from adopting policies that restrict their participation in federal immigration enforcement. Our cities, counties, and schools have the right to prioritize their limited resources toward fulfilling their primary mission – creating safe neighborhoods and learning environments so that all Iowans can thrive, not tearing apart our communities and tearing apart local families.


Contact your Senator (515) 281 3371

Contact your Representative ( 515) 281 3221

Membership Meeting & Allies/Reunion de la Membresia y Aliados

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We invite you to attend the monthly meeting of members of the Center, where you will hear news from the community, the work being done; Updates on immigration and what we are doing to protect the community, we will also talk about the education of our children, theft of wages and affordable housing.
We will have Daycare !

This is an open invitation to our Allies in Iowa City, join the Membership Meeting & find out how you can support our immigrant’s Community on this political moment.

Stop the Legislature’s Assault on Iowa Workers!

On February 7, Republican lawmakers in Des Moines filed bills that constitute an all-out attack on workers in every city, county, and school district in our state. CWJ President Mazahir Salih and Vice-President Irund A-wan joined hundreds of union and community members at the capitol yesterday to speak out against these attacks.

House Study Bill 92 would take away the minimum wage increase our members fought so hard to pass, and throw tens of thousands of Iowa workers back to the poverty minimum of $7.25. It would ban local governments from passing any laws or resolutions that provide higher standards than state or federal law on any issue related to workers’ rights, as well as certain consumer environmental protections.
House Study Bill 84/ Senate File 213 is an extreme proposal that strips away over 100 years of basic civil service and union rights of public service workers – such as teachers, firefighters, secretaries, and snowplow drivers. It removes civil service protections established in the early 1900s to prevent nepotism and corruption, allows workers to be fired for any reason and without cause, makes it illegal for public workers to negotiate with their employer over any working conditions except raises, and contains provisions to dismantle public workers’ unions.
This is devastating to our state, our workers, and our public services. Please join us in calling our state legislators today to reject these attacks on the people of Iowa!
Connect to your state Senator by calling 1- 844-332-8460.
Connect to your state Representative by calling 1- 855-790-8815.