Residents Rally in Support of Cleaner Seeking Back Pay

Last month, people protested at Outback Steakhouses in Cedar Rapids, Clive and Sioux City, Iowa. But they weren’t speaking out for themselves, they were offering support for a worker who claimed that she hadn’t been paid for the hours she put in cleaning the restaurants.

Kossiwa Agbenowassi, an immigrant from West Africa, worked for Sandpiper Maintenance & Repair, the company Outback contracted with for cleaning services. Employers often take advantage of immigrants because they’re perceived as powerless. Although Sandpiper is the offending party, the protesters believe the restaurant chain is ultimately responsible for the $2,300 Agbenowassi says she’s owed for 49 days of work.

Outback says it paid Sandpiper the proper amount per its contract, and said that 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.”

So the protest was more about taking responsibility for what happens on your premises, and making reparations. “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 one protester, Misty Rebik. She’s the executive director of the Center for Worker Justice.

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