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Protesters March Outside Outback Steakhouse Against Wage Theft

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Protesters gathered Wednesday evening to take a stand against wage theft.

They say that happens when people don’t receive money for hours they’ve worked.

People rallied outside of Outback Steakhouse restaurants in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Clive and Sioux City. They were all supporting a woman who worked for a cleaning company contracted to work at those locations.

Kossiwa Agbenowassi lives in Coralville now, but is originally from West Africa. The protesters believe the steakhouse is responsible for making sure she gets paid $2,300 for 49 days of work.

“I’m here today to get my money back, thank you,” Agbenowassi said to the crowd.

The group also marched into the restaurant to take a stand.

“We are here demanding that Outback take some responsibility for the benefit they got out of that labor and they pay her or somebody pay her for the work that she did,” said Center for Worker Justice Executive Director Misty Rebik.

Outback said it contracted with Sandpiper Maintenance & Repair for cleaning services and paid the company for the work that was done.

In a statement the company said, “Sandpiper should be held accountable for failure to pay their employee. While we cannot control another company’s business practices, we can choose to no longer use that company — which is what we’ve done.”

“My family needs the money,” Agbenowassi said.

The Center for Worker Justice out of Iowa City organized the protest. Participants believe this is just one example of a bigger issue of wage theft in the state.

“Weekly, at our center we get calls and we are working with workers in many different industries to fight against wage theft,” Rebik said.

State Rep. Art Staed, (D) Cedar Rapids, is getting involved. He said he plans to push lawmakers to act on the problem.

“I’m going to champion that this next year to make sure that they are, and we look into these kinds of things and make sure that it doesn’t happen because it’s unfair and unjust,” Rep. Staed said.

The group hopes Kossiwa gets her money and that their protest gets the community’s attention about what they say is a growing issue.

The cleaning company did not respond to a request for comment as of 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Rep. Staed has called for the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate.

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