- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 18, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A workers’ rights group asked the U.S. Department of Labor on Tuesday to investigate allegations that hundreds of temporary workers at an Iowa City factory have been illegally denied wages.

The Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa filed the complaint against RockTenn, a Norcross, Georgia-based paper and packaging company that operates the Iowa City factory. The complaint also names CFA Staffing and Sedona Staffing, which employ temporary workers there.

The complaint alleges that the factory’s estimated 300 temporary workers are instructed to show up 30 minutes before their shifts begin if they want to get work. The workers are not paid for that time, and some are sent home for the day without work, the group alleges.

The center’s executive director, Misty Rebik, said she believes that practice is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires employers to pay workers starting when they are required to show up.

RockTenn said none of its temporary workers are required to show up early.

“It is RockTenn’s policy to comply with all laws and regulations - and we require our vendors to do the same,” said RockTenn spokeswoman Robin Keegan.

The company packages consumer products such as shampoo and makeup at its Iowa City factory for Procter and Gamble and other companies.

The workers’ group also called on RockTenn and its contractors to start issuing pay stubs to workers, who are paid $8 per hour via debit card and don’t receive benefits. Rebik said that many workers complain that they have been denied pay for hours worked, and the center has already recovered more than $1,000 in wages for three workers employed by one of RockTenn’s staffing agencies.

Rebik said that RockTenn should be considered the workers’ joint employer and held accountable for violations by its contractors.

“We want RockTenn and its contractors to know that our community expects them to comply with the law and treat their workers with the respect and dignity they deserve. No multibillion-dollar corporation should be paying poverty wages, let alone be in the business of stealing people’s wages,” Rebik said at a news conference, where two former employees shared their stories.

Keegan, the RockTenn spokeswoman, said questions about pay stubs should be directed to the staffing agencies, but that she believes they are available upon request as required in Iowa.

Rebik said she expects the investigation will be “very complicated” and lengthy because of the number of workers affected. She said the case is also difficult because many of the complainants are current workers who fear retaliation.

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