Omar Gaytan, CCI member , worked on the renovation of the Birdland Park shelters and was never paid by Paplow Roofing, the company that the city of Des Moines contracted to do the renovation. This company has a notorious record of judgments and wage claims against it, yet the city of Des Moines gave Paplow Roofing the project because it was the lowest bid (it is state law to take the lowest bid).

Wage theft and misclassification are rampant on construction projects. Many companies who offer the lowest bid may be able to do so because they do not pay a living wage, or do not pay at all.

Employers should not steal wages or exploit their workers, yet we find this is common practice. Taxpayer money should not go to companies that do not do right by their workers. That’s where the responsible bidder questionnaire comes in!

Iowa Code 26 states that all public projects must go to the “lowest, responsive, responsible bidder”. However, there is no definition of what “responsible” means, and no real way to determine who is or isn’t a responsible bidder.

What is the Responsible Bidder Questionnaire?

  •  a document with a series of questions on a company’s information ranging from number of employees to whether it has an apprenticeship program or encourages unionization
  • a way to check up on the history of a company to determine whether it is a responsible company that treats employees well, or not

Any local entity or city that adopts such a questionnaire uses it to determine who is eligible to be chosen as the lowest bidder on a public project.

CCI members want workers to be protected from wage theft and exploitation, and taxpayer money to go to good companies that do right by their workers. This is why CCI members want a responsible bidder questionnaire that would serve to check companies’ records and define what constitutes a responsible company that is worthy of working on public projects in Iowa.

Responsible contracting protects conditions for workers, rewards ethical companies and weeds out unscrupulous companies from highly profitable projects. So, the Des Moines City Council recently approved the questionnaire!



Learn More

Click here for the latest in the Future of Work Campaign.

Had a bad experience with a contractor? Let us know! We are creating a Contractor’s guide and need your input.

Read more on the Future of Work in America from our National Affiliate National People’s Action.



Join Us

Worker Justice Clinics

This community coffee hour is a monthly gathering for workers to create community, get trained on their rights at work, and learn to take the first steps towards organizing in their workplace. Join us!

Check out what a clinic is like, here.


We had our first community coffee hour on #WorkersRights, with special guests Adam Wombacher from the Department of Labor, and Mitchell Mahan from Iowa Workforce Development!

The office was bustling with 40 folks.  After a “social” hour, we made a collective call to President Obama asking him to take bold action on comprehensive immigration reform,  as that day was the National Day to Stand Up for Families.

The evening consisted of a presentation on wage amd hour laws, and workers’ rights, the wage claim process, as well as misclassifications and filing OSHA complaints. The #WorkersRights training engaged the room, and what was really significant? Many heard each other’s story of wage theft/abuse on the job for the first time.

This community coffee hour is a monthly gathering for workers to create community, get trained on their rights at work, and learn to take the first steps towards organizing in their workplace.

Join us for our next community coffee hour on #WorkersRights!


Join the Fight

  • Contact us for more information. !Hablamos español!
  • Join as an Iowa CCI member
  • Sign up for our email Action List


CCI members met with Des Moines City Council member Skip Moore here at the CCI office to talk about wage theft on public projects and skip moorethe need for the city to adopt a pre-qualified bidder questionnaire.

This questionnaire’s purpose is to protect workers by preventing public projects from going to wage thieves. Representatives from the League of Latin American Citizens and the Des Moines Human Rights Commission were there too.

We heard from Omar Gaytan, a construction worker that had done some work at a Birdland Park shelter – a bid given to Paplow Roofing by the City of Des Moines. Omar is owed over $3,600 for his work there, and Paplow simply refused to pay him, as well as three other workers.

We had engaged Paplow before, and filed a wage claim against Paplow. Even though the judgment was issued in favor of Omar, he has not been able to collect. Meanwhile, Iowa Workforce Development is suing Paplow Roofing for the 13th time due to wage theft. This was the case that made us start pushing for the prequalified bidder questionnaire.

Stay tuned for developments!

Jose Olivares is from Santa Rosa, Guatemala. He’s been in the U.S. for nearly ten years – Des Moines has made up eight of those years. This is what he feels about Des Moines:

“I really like Des Moines. It’s nice, it’s quiet, and it’s not dangerous like other states. It’s really beautiful here and I really like it. I don’t think I will move away from Des Moines, until I go back to Guatemala. I am planning to return – my kids are there, three of them are graduating from high school this year.”

One aspect of Des Moines was not so nice recently – O2 Painting. Jose worked there for 1 month on an hourly basis painting the inside and outside of houses, and he was not paid for his work.

So, Jose came to CCI.

“I remember that we talked to Jeremy [of O2 Painting] on the phone a bunch of times, we sent a letter, and then we personally delivered a meeting request to his house. His brother yelled at us and we had to tell him why we were there and that his brother owed a bunch of money. I found out he was in Iowa City and then we filed a claim with Iowa Workforce Development,” said Jose.

A judgment was given in Jose’s favor for $5,000 plus interest! He has received $3,943.16 and there is more on the way. Jose was originally owed $3,102 – Jeremy’s refusal to pay cost him more money.

“I have told other workers to go to CCI if they have any problems. Many of my friends have told me they have gone to CCI and told me that you really do help out,” said Jose.

Jose: +5,000 | Wage thief: -5,000

Need help with a wage theft issue? Contact us!


Keep on reading the e-news!

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On February 27th, Reu, Juan, and Baldemar, construction workers in the Des Moines area, met their wage thief head on – a man named Nick from a construction company in Des Moines.

The workers were owed wages for a construction project they did at one of Nick’s projects.

Nick hired a contractor named Eugene Ullman who came up to Iowa from Mississippi for this job. Eugene then hired Reu, Juan and Baldemar in Iowa. A few weeks into the project Eugene left to Mississippi and said he’d be back…

The workers continued working on Nick’s house under the belief that Eugene would return. But after a week of working for no pay, the workers tried to contact Eugene — and he was completely missing in action.

During that week of work, the workers were being supervised by Nick. Because members were not able to contact Eugene, they went up the “supply chain” and held Nick accountable for the wage theft. The workers asked him for a meeting.

Nick agreed to meet with the workers.

Out of the meeting, the workers realized that Nick was misclassifying them; Nick argued that they were subcontractors and that he had nothing to do with it. However, the workers laid out a good argument making Nick accountable for the stolen wages.

After a lot of back and forth and disagreement from both sides, Nick agreed to pay the workers and wrote a check for them right there. They were each owed different amounts but in total they won back $1,806.50.

Join the Fight!

Hubbell Homes, one of the largest residential builders in central Iowa, has adopted an anti wage theft provision into the company’s subcontractor agreements.

The company’s move comes after an impressive 8-month organizing campaign packed with people power from CCI members. On Nov. 21, CCI members gave a powerful presentation around wage theft and the new provision to more than 60 of Hubbell Homes’ trade partners and subcontractors at the Copper Creek Golf Course in Pleasant Hill.

The provision states:

“Payment of Employees and Sub-Sub Contractors—The Subcontractor shall comply with federal, state and local wage and hour laws, tax laws, social security acts, unemployment compensation acts and workers’ compensation acts insofar as applicable to the performance of this Subcontract, including all city, state and federal wage and hour laws.  The Subcontractor shall timely pay all employees and sub-sub contractors.  FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THIS SECTION MAY RESULT IN TERMINATION OF THIS SUB-CONTRACTOR AGREEMENT.”

This means that if any subcontractor is found to be engaging in wage theft at a Hubbell Homes project, it could have its contract terminated.

“We want our businesses to behave in an ethical way that lifts up and supports the community, and creates a good working environment that does not tolerate wage theft or any unscrupulous business practices,” said CCI member Cherie Mortice.

The presentation discussed the impacts of wage theft in Iowa, highlighting figures from our report on wage theft, and letting people know how by organizing workers for change, CCI worked to get Hubbell Homes to include anti wage theft language in their business agreements.

“We do want to collaborate with ICCI and appreciate the importance of subcontractors paying their employees and their sub-subcontractors,” wrote Dan Cornelison, VP and legal counsel of Hubbell Homes in an e-mail to Iowa CCI organizing staff.

Iowa CCI had heard of at least 5 cases of wage theft by subcontractors on Hubbell Homes projects, which is why in August, a team of CCI leaders met with Rick Tollakson, president and CEO of Hubbell Homes to negotiate the anti wage theft policy proposal.

We deal with the individual subcontractors separately, but this time we also went up the power tree to demand those at the top to stop doing business with shady entities that steal wages from workers.

In September, CCI members Jose Olivares and Miguel Afanador, recovered over $2,000 in wages from the unscrupulous subcontractor at a Hubbell Homes project. Hubbell Homes also terminated its contract with this subcontractor.

Iowa CCI members are planning to meet again with Hubbell Homes in the Spring of 2013. See the slides from our presentation: Presentation to Hubbell Homes on Wage Theft 


Learn more

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  • Join as an Iowa CCI member today or chip in $10 to support our organizing on this issue.
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