Wage Theft

We are taking a stand against worker abuse and wage theft. Together we are organizing to defend our rights in the workplace, and raise industry standards for dignity in our work!

Standing Up to Wage Theft in Iowa City

There is a crime wave in our state and out country that receives very little attention, and it targets the lowest-wage workers who can least afford to lose money. The crime is wage theft — when employers fail to pay¬†their legally-required wages in exchange for their labor.

The scale of the problem is enormous. In a 2014 report, the Economic Policy Institute found that wage theft robs workers of far more money than the value of bank robbers, convenience store robberies, street and highway robberies, and gas station robberies combined. In our state, a 2012 report by Iowa Policy Project estimated that Iowa workers miss out on an estimated $600 million each year from wage theft.

That’s why the Center for Worker Justice has led efforts to educate workers about their rights and stand with workers who are victims of wage theft to recover the wages they have earned. We’ve recovered almost $80,000 so far until Fall 2019. Workers who come to the CWJ learn how to gather the evidence they need to prove their case and find out what steps they can take with the support of CWJ members and allies to seek justice.

This summer, with the support of our network, more workers recovered the unpaid wages they were owed and sent a strong message to unscrupulous employers that workers in our community are not alone.

What we’ve done

  • We are partnering with local building trade unions in support of workers who are organizing to combat wage theft, misclassification, and unsafe conditions on construction sites and have recovered $16,000 in lost wages until October 2019 making over $ 80,000 on wages recover.
  • We seek to increase revenue for our community by fighting tax fraud discovered through the investigation of wage theft complaints and to promote legislation creating additional protections for workers, including stiffer penalties for employers who commit wage theft.
  • Recovered more than $65,000 in unpaid wages. ( January 2019)
  • Educated more than 500 low-wage workers about their rights in the workplace.
  • Rallied more than 100 people for a raise in the minimum wage and to stop wage theft in Iowa.
  • Met with representatives from the Federal Department of Labor to improve practices in recovering unpaid wages for workers.
  • Trained immigrant leaders in OSHA rights and standards.
  • Met with state and federal elected officials to to discuss the need to strengthen wage payment enforcement.
  • Door-knocked more than 350 homes to educate workers.
  • Mobilized a state-wide wage theft action in four cities across Iowa.


What we’re doing

  • Helping to recover unpaid wages
  • Organizing against discrimination and unfair workplace treatment
  • Answering questions about your rights at your workplace
  • Organizing for better wages at your workplace
  • Teaching about safety at your workplace and OSHA standards