Mazahir Salih to leave Center for Worker Justice

Mazahir Salih is stepping back from her full-time position as executive director of the Center for Worker Justice.
Mazahir Salih is stepping back from her full-time position as executive director of the Center for Worker Justice. CREDIT CENTER FOR WORKER JUSTICE

Mazahir Salih, executive director and co-founder for the Iowa City-based Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa (CWJ), announced she is resigning from her full-time position and is leaving the nonprofit, according to a statement obtained by the CBJ.

Founded in 2012, the organization has advocated for workers in wage theft disputes and Forest View mobile home tenants fighting for checks to relocate from their homes. The CWJ has hosted free mobile health clinics and sponsor various classes, including English and tenants’ rights.

She cited the “extraordinary sacrifices” she and her family have made to continue in the position, noting that it had “taken a toll on me and my family,” but she stated she would continue in a part-time role until a full-time replacement director is hired.

“Together, our diverse network has changed policies and achieved so many victories,” she said in a statement. “I am especially grateful that we had this trusted community center in place during the pandemic … Our network sprang into action, kept our doors open, and worked around the clock to connect thousands of families with life-saving donations and local services.”

Ms. Salih will work with the board of directors to hire a new executive director. A job posting for the position is available on the CWJ website.

Believed to be the first Sudanese-American elected to public office in the United States, Ms. Salih served on the Iowa City Council from 2017-21, the Press-Citizen reported.

CWJ misses IRS filing deadlines

The resignation, announced Nov. 14, comes nearly one month after it was reported the CWJ paid $20,000 in penalties to the IRS for late tax filings for missing deadlines in three consecutive years.

From 2018-20, Form 990 filings show the nonprofit filed late. The CWJ is appealing the penalties.

According to the Daily Iowan, Treasurer Charlie Eastham said the CWJ staff didn’t have the “necessary support” to adjust to filing the 990 form in 2018, rather than the simpler 990-EZ forms they had filed since 2012. In 2019, he said they filed late because his time was spread thin while running his campaign for the Iowa City Community School District school board.

The 990 form for the fiscal year ending in 2020 was filed Sept. 8, 2021. Ms. Salih said the nonprofit did not file late in 2020, but discovered they nonetheless had their nonprofit status revoked on the IRS website.

Mr. Eastham told The Gazette the CWJ sent explanations for the late forms to the IRS, but the IRS didn’t receive them due to internal IRS delays, leading to the organization’s 501(c)(3) status being revoked. Fines were paid using private donations, not government funds, he said.

After one week, the IRS sent a letter saying they made a mistake in removing the classification.

In 2015, the CWJ lost its Iowa Secretary of State status. It earned back the designation in 2016.

According to the 990 Forms found on ProPublica’s website, the CWJ operated at a negative net income from 2017-19, overlapping with much of Ms. Salih’s spell as a city councilor.

From Our Home to Yours, a program managed by the CWJ, received $65,000 from Iowa City and Johnson County in 2020, the Press-Citizen reported.

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors approved a five-year agreement worth $135,000 for a bilingual wage theft organizer in June, according to the Daily Iowan.