University of Iowa administrators have announced their intent to close the UI Labor Center — the only unit in the entire state university system that specializes in research and education for and about Iowa workers.
The decision to close the Center was made with NO prior discussion with the Labor Center, UI faculty, workers, students, or community partners who rely on the Center’s education and research.
The Center was established in 1951 and has been built by the contributions and support of generations of Iowans for nearly 70 years.
The Center provides direct education for more than 2,500 Iowa workers annually across the state. It impacts many thousands more as these continuing education students bring knowledge of health and safety laws, antidiscrimination rights, and leadership skills back to their workplaces and communities to grow Iowa’s economy.
Faculty who study and teach on labor and employment law, immigration, public policy, Iowa history, occupational health and safety, and the economy rely on the Center as a resource and hub for coordinating interdisciplinary research on a wide range of work-related issues. Center staff teach undergraduate classes, mentor students, supervise experiential student learning, research projects, and internships, and support student job placement in labor and employment-related fields. These functions are not duplicated anywhere else in the Regents system.
The work of the Center is sustained by funds from program fees, competitive grants, and a small but essential University funding commitment.
Now the University is trying to hijack the only university funds across the state that are committed to serving Iowa’s workers.
The Labor Center’s annual General Education Fund (GEF) allocation from the UI has already been cut multiple times and is now less than one-thousandth of one percent (0.00075) of the UI’s total GEF budget. The Center’s entire 2018 GEF allocation is less than the UI President’s annual salary.
Iowans are at risk of losing access to critical education and leadership development programs. Because worker education has a proven track record of decreasing problems like workplace fatalities, harassment, discrimination, and wage payment violations, Iowans can expect these and other serious problems to increase.