Center for Worker Justice celebrates expansion

The Center for Worker Justice expands with new office space and celebrates with different parts of the community.


Nick Rohlman

The Center for Worker Justice recently moved to a new location in order to expand the amount of space they had available for offices and meeting rooms.

Andy Mitchell, News Reporter

The Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa moved its location last week to southeastern Iowa City.

Founded in 2012, the center advocates for workers in the eastern Iowa area by organizing for higher wages, affordable housing, and improved workplace conditions, while confronting discrimination and assisting the immigrant community.

The move added new classroom spaces and offices, and the new location is near an Iowa City bus stop and the Motor Vehicle Department, 1556 S. First Ave.

Center Executive Director Rafael Morataya said the classroom space would be used for educational courses on such subjects as housing and tenants’ rights, sewing, organizational skills, and languages, including English and Spanish.

Morataya said until the move, the center had space issues that restricted interaction with the community.

“The benefit is not for the center,” he said. “It’s for the community.”

Iowa City City Councilor Mazahir Salih, a community organizer for the center, said having a new space brings new energy.

“We always need a bigger space, because we have such a diverse community,” she said.

In the previous space, parents could bring their children to a makeshift play area, but in the new space, children have their own room with toys and books. Salih said it benefited low-income families who needed a place for their children while using the center’s resources.

On Nov. 3, the center celebrated the opening of the new space with a potluck lunch. Morataya said the packed house had dishes contributed from different parts of Iowa City from the Latinx to the Sudanese communities. The potluck also featured presentations from the UI Mobile Clinic and Safe Futures group of UI law students. 

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“People are so motivated to come and share their culture and food,” Morataya said. “That’s the point of the center, bringing education and culture. Sudan, Colombia, Mexico — we are Iowa.”

The center is focused on housing and wages, laid out in a six-year retrospective published in conjunction with the move to the new space. Morataya said the center will work with local Iowa City businesses to see if they’ll hold to a $10.10 minimum wage despite not being required to by law. The center also vocally defends the University of Iowa Labor Center, which the school has slated for closing.

Morataya said the importance of fighting for higher wages is driven by Iowa City’s high cost of living and low opportunity for work. He also said local business owners can connect with their community better with higher wages.

The center has also worked to win approval for the rezoning plan for the Forest View mobile home park, a result of two years of negotiation between Forest View’s land developers and organized tenants association.

“I think we’re doing great work in this community,” Salih said. “Without them, we won’t be able to do anything.”

Center Vice President Marcela Hurtado said the new space means the center is growing. She noted that she saw a number of new faces at the potluck.

“The overall goal is contact with the community and politics, staying growing and connected,” Hurtado said.