Supporters Respond

Keep the Labor Center at UI to Educate the Next Generation of Iowa Workers

“Over the last 40 years I have had the privilege of attending classes taught by the University of Iowa Labor Center, on campus and off campus. The ability to attend these classes has helped me then educate my co-workers, family and community on various laws and worker rights that effect all workers in the state of Iowa.


"I understand that the current state legislature has made serious cuts to the state universities budgets and by my observation, these decisions were made with very little input from the affected universities or the general public which is irresponsible at best.


"I would hope that the University of Iowa would consider the value of open discussion with the stake holders at the Labor Center and the general public when considering a drastic change such as closing the Labor Center.


"As I read the Mission, Core Values and Culture of the University of Iowa that I found online, I believe if we work together and follow these core values we should be able to keep the Labor Center as a part of the University of Iowa and continue educating the next generation of Iowa workers.”

Brad D. Greve, President, USW Local 105, Bettendorf, Iowa

The Labor Center Gave Me the Confidence to Fight Discrimination

“I was a splicer of copper telephone cable for 44 years before I retired. I can sincerely say I would not be the woman I am today without the Labor Center.

For example, I worked with all men. They would say horrible things to me and I could not respond. I went to a women’s school at the Labor Center and they gave me a voice to fight discrimination in all forms. I learned to speak up to these men. It was the hardest thing I ever did, but I remembered what I learned at the Labor Center and it helped me.


"Now I have the confidence to be Secretary of the Polk County Democrats, Recording Secretary of South Central Federation of Labor and appointed by my local mayor to be a Commissar on the Des Moines Greater Sister Cities Commission. 


"I feel like owe a lot to the Labor Center. They made me a confident woman and unleashed me to soar. The Labor Center is vital to me.”
 

Kerry Bowen, Windsor Heights

Proposal to Close UI Labor Center Is “Latest Gut Punch” to Iowa Workers

“I am deeply disappointed at the proposed closure of the UI Labor Center. This proposal is the latest gut punch to Iowa workers and their families. This is a terrible time to even consider closing the UI Labor Center.


"Since 1950, the Labor Center has helped make Iowa a better place to live and do business. It has helped workers and Iowa employers meet the changing workforce needs of the state. As an interdisciplinary educational and research center, it has helped educate students and advance the public’s understanding of work during a time of rapid change. It has also has leveraged its state appropriation in securing competitive federal grants for the university.


"While there is no doubt that the University of Iowa is under financial pressure because of the bad budget priorities of Governor Reynolds and the Republican Legislature, I hope that President Harreld will change his mind and reconsider this ill-advised decision that would only worsen Iowa’s efforts to build a strong, modern economy that rewards hard work.”

—Senator Joe Bolkcom

Labor Education Is a Civil Rights Issue

“I’m from Davenport, Iowa. I work for Century Link, I’m a coach, a community leader, and a union member. 


"Knowledge is power. Once you educate a person, you cannot hold them back. The question is: who is entitled to an education? Who will the state allow an education to go to? Will we go back to the days when only the wealthy went to school? The Labor Center is the only state entity that provides relevant education about workers’ rights and leadership development for workers. Many Iowans work full time. They don’t have time to find out about all the laws. That’s why the Labor Center is important — to educate a few, to educate the masses. 


"For minority workers, it’s a fundamental civil rights issue. Discrimination is very much alive in Iowa workplaces and a serious issue holding back talent and progress. Many minority workers I know are unfamiliar with discrimination laws, or even how to file a claim when they feel they have been discriminated against. The information I have learned in class has given me essential tools in the struggle for equality and economic progress for all Iowans. 


"Closing the Labor Center would be a disaster with serious repercussions for our state, our citizens and the university. This does not have to happen and it can not happen." 


Rodney Blackwell, Communications Workers of America Local 7110

The Labor Center Is Essential for Student Research and Professional Development

"I came to the University of Iowa for graduate school to study immigration and social policy. I quickly realized I could do neither without understanding labor history. Since the retirement of renowned labor historian Shelton Stromquist, the Labor Center has become an even more vital and necessary place for graduate students. 

The Labor Center has contributed to my education as a graduate student through published research, creation and maintenance of archival material, courses in the history department, mentorship, and professional opportunities and connections. 

The staff of the Labor Center and the archival collections they create and maintain have yielded books and essays that I use in research and teaching – particularly the Iowa Labor History Oral Project, affectionately known as ILHOP. ILHOP is one of the many projects and collections at the Labor Center and has over a thousand interviews (and counting!) that cover over 75 occupational groups. ILHOP is one of the most comprehensive state-level collections in the world, it is recognized as a model for its methods, contents, and sustained engagement with researchers and the community. 


"ILHOP is important to me both as a scholar and as an instructor. The collection of interviews is a necessary archival source for conducting research. The digitized interviews are accessible and a powerful tool in the classroom that students respond to enthusiastically. I have also taught with the book Solidarity and Survival by Shelton Stomquist, which was written using the ILHOP interviews.


"Dr. John McKerley, the lead interviewer for ILHOP and staff member of the Labor Center, has been crucial in my development as a student. Dr. McKerley serves as an instructor, researcher, grant-writer, and mentor. I have taken classes that he has offered, which included additional work in the form of extra reading and discussions. He often used these discussions to help and push me to think about potential research sources and topics with an eye toward publication. Essays from a volume he co-edited, Civic Labors: Scholar Activism and Working-Class Studies, helped me to orient myself as a young researcher in the field. Furthermore, Dr. McKerley has secured major grants that strengthen the Labor Center and he has shared those skills by helping me prepare grant applications that further my own research.


"Dr. Mckerley’s role at the Labor Center also poises him to help graduate students see opportunities to apply their knowledge and research skills in positions beyond the professoriate if they so choose.

 

"Finally, he has taken myself and other colleagues to labor conferences that have improved our ability to engage with the field, see interdisciplinary research underway, and make vital professional connections. Drawing on these experiences, I hosted a graduate research conference at the University of Iowa on labor history that brought students from throughout the Midwest to present their ongoing research in hopes of completing dissertations and articles. The Labor Center supported and helped me plan the event and Drs. John McKerley and Jennifer Sherer attended, engaged graduate students with thoughtful questions and suggestions, and served formally as commentators on panels. 


"The Labor Center and its continued funding is essential for graduate students in supporting their training, making their research possible, and in their professional development."


—Ashley Dorn, PhD Student, University of Iowa Department of History

One of the Premier Programs in Labor Studies in the Country

“The Labor Center provides an invaluable contribution to the UI community but has also made a national impact for organizations like the Communications Workers of America. In my experience, the UI program is one of the premier programs in labor studies in the country.  It rivals programs at other highly-ranked universities and is a program that should be expanded.” 


—Melissa Matos, JD, MPH Director - Education, Human Rights, Health & Safety, Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO

One of the True Educational Assets for Iowa Workers

“The U of I Labor Center has educated and trained thousands of workers who are members and officers of my union here in Iowa.  It's the only educational facility in Iowa totally dedicated to education of working families. Its staff are highly educated and skilled educators in labor laws, wage and hour laws, ADA, FMLA, Workers Comp, Child Labor Laws, NLRA and HIPAA to name a few. They conduct research used by our members, as well as both introductory and advanced labor education classes.  They host programs dedicated to working women's issues and workplace issues encountered by our non-English speaking workers in Iowa.


"The U of I Labor Center should be expanded not closed.  It's one of the true educational assets in Iowa for continuing educational opportunities for Iowa workers.  The majority of their students have not enjoyed post high school educational opportunities because they are financially limited to seeking gainful employment after high school just to exist.” 


Dale Jeter, Retired Leader, United Steelworkers Union

Closing the Labor Center Would Inflict Permanent Harm

“The Labor Center is the sole unit in the Iowa Regents system devoted to education about and for Iowa workers. I have personally attended worker rights trainings about topics such as Workers’ Compensation and the Americans with Disability Act as well as attending community presentations about collective bargaining and other topics.  Trainings and presentations such as these are invaluable to workers across Iowa.


"As an advocate for public education I am keenly aware of the devastating effects cuts in state funding are having on Iowa’s PK-12 public schools and its higher education institutions.  I am also well aware that these moments of financial crisis are frequently used to destroy programs—in the name of budgetary reasons.  


"Destroying programs such as the Labor Center will inflict permanent harm to both the University and the state. It is my understanding that the Labor Center’s annual General Education Fund allocation is less than one-thousandth of one percent (0.00075) of the UI’s total GEF budget.  The financial savings gained from closing the Labor Center would be so tiny as to be irrelevant. Meanwhile, harm from its closure would be immeasurable. It would end tens of thousands of dollars in revenue from union and community program fees and sponsorships. It would eliminate the UI from consideration for federal grants in areas of Labor Center expertise.  High-quality labor curriculum, resources, and special labor projects would cease to exist. Thousands of Iowans would lose access to leadership development programs and critical education about their rights at work.


"I am particularly troubled that a decision to close the Labor Center—a facet of the UI which has been in existence since 1951—has been made by administration with no public or faculty input.  


"Please reverse the decision to close the UI Labor Center.  Do not allow a miniscule budget savings to permanently destroy an important UI institution—an institution which benefits both the UI and the state in so many ways.  Keep the Labor Center open!!!” 


—Carol Haupert, Iowa State Education Association UniServ Director, Ottumwa Regional Office

Providing Firefighters with Knowledge to Fight for Improved Safety

“The Labor Center has provided professional firefighters across the state of Iowa with the knowledge and resources to fight for improved safety of the communities they protect. Hopefully, the University and their Board of Regents can work with lawmakers in Des Moines to see the error of their ways and ensure funding for the Labor Center into the future.”

 

—Brandon Pflanzer, President, Iowa City Professional Fire Fighters Local 610 

Labor Center Classes Helped Give us the Tools to Recover Unpaid Wages

“Our organization is a non-profit organization that supports low-wage workers. These workers are the pillars of our community, the backbone of our hotels, restaurants, cleaning and construction industries. Like all workers, our members pay taxes and contribute strongly to our local economies, but all too often these same people experience shocking abuses such as wage theft and sexual harassment in the workplace. 


"As a center, we’ve been working on these issues for six years, and the UI Labor Center has played an essential role in conducting educational classes in our language and on topics we experience and connecting us with University departments. Our members have the power to continue the struggle, but we need the educational tools that the Labor Center has provided us. After holding classes at the Labor Center for hundreds of workers, we have been able to recover almost $ 60,000 in unpaid wages and raise standards in our industries. The university connections the Labor Center has helped us establish have been mutually beneficial — we have learned from university knowledge, and university faculty and students have learned from our members who have helped speak in classes, host interns, and provide information for reports. 


"The information and education of the Labor Center is essential for low-income workers who want to learn about their rights and defend them. Let’s please defend this small but essential commitment for low-wage workers – people who pay taxes, work hard and struggle to grow Iowa's economy." 


—Marcela Hurtado, Vice-President, Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa

At the Forefront of Advising Workers and Their Employers

“The University of Iowa’s labor center has always been at the forefront of advising workers and their employers of their rights and has provided those resources at a minimal cost to the state, workers and their employers. 


"We the members of the United Steelworkers were highly disappointed when we learned of the closing of the Labor Center, in fact the University of Iowa Labor Center runs through the blood of so many of us in the labor movement we cannot envision the state of Iowa without the Labor Center. 


"As a lifelong resident of Iowa, Labor leader, Hawkeye fan and the father of a son starting his sophomore year at the University, I am deeply opposed to this closing.” 


Jeff Hartford, Staff Representative, USW District 11

I Rely on the Labor Center to Lead in Labor and Employment Research and Training

“As a 2003 graduate of the University of Iowa Law School and an Iowa labor and employment attorney, I can assure you the loss of services provided by the Labor Center would be yet another devastating blow to Iowa’s hard-working men and women and their advocates.  


"After leaving the UI Law School in 2003 and serving for two years as a law clerk to Iowa Appellate Court Judge Anuradha Vaitheswaran, I joined the small legal staff at the Iowa State Education Association.  The ISEA represents thousands of public sector education employees across the state and supports their local education associations.  For 13 years, I have relied on the Labor Center to lead in the area of labor and employment research and training.  I cannot count the number of trainings and conferences I have attended through the Labor Center.  As recently as 2017 and 2018, the staff of the Labor Center have been instrumental in assisting labor lawyers like myself to come together, analyze, and collectively respond to drastic and devastating changes to the public sector collective bargaining in Iowa.


"Be certain, however, the greatest loss for the citizens of Iowa will not be suffered by labor lawyers.  More importantly, workers, worker advocates, union representatives and leaders will lose a vital resource for research, materials, and training.  The non-legal staff at ISEA, our leaders, and members routinely utilize the trainings provided by the Labor Center to acquire skills in leadership, communication, organizing and advocacy, bargaining contracts, and engaging in arbitration.  They also access vital information and trainings on workers’ compensation, the Family Medical Leave Act, and other laws affording rights and protections for workers.


"With the turmoil caused by the legislative attacks on public sector collective bargaining and the nationwide threat to organized labor, the loss of the Labor Center is but one more strike at the fabric of the middle class.  The small amount of University resources necessary to support the Labor Center is well worth preserving this important work.  Please maintain this critical resource.” 


Christy A. A. Hickman, 2003 UI Law Graduate, Iowa State Education Association Staff Attorney

What We Have Learned from the Labor Center Has Saved Lives

“I was a locomotive engineer for 41 years. I started out with the Santa Fe Railroad, which became BNSF. I first started coming to the Labor Center in 2009. By 2011, we set up training programs for locomotive engineers and conductors. We discussed health and safety, and we got a whole new perspective on how to look at these issues. We learned about hazard identification, and left these classes saying we did not realize safety could encompass all that it does. 


"I am sure that what we have learned from the Labor Center has saved lives. Not just engineers, conductors, maintenance of way, but if you live near a railroad, it may have saved your life too. Our classes with the Labor Center have enhanced workers’ lives. We’re bringing what we learned into labor-management programs. If Dean Washburn and Bruce Harreld say this isn’t the core mission of the university, I ask, Why isn’t it?”  


Jeff Kurtz, Retired Railroad Engineer, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen

The Labor Center Is an Essential Resource for Me and My Students

“I’m a teacher in the Iowa City School District. I’m also a UI graduate. The UI Labor Center has supported me countless times over past 15 years, in many capacities.
 

"As a UI student, I took Labor Center classes on Child Labor that not only inspired me, but dozens of my future students as well. The classes were part of a large U.S. Department of Labor grant secured through collaboration of the Labor Center, the Center for Human Rights, and College of Education. As a student teacher, I participated in the Child Labor curriculum writing committee.  These lessons and projects have had immeasurable impact both locally and nationally.


"And as a teacher, the UI Labor Center has been a stalwart supporter of my students. As a trusted source of credible information on US and global labor issues, ​I’ve invited the Labor Center to conduct presentations in my classroom. They deliver fantastic, compelling lessons that inspire our students to reflect on the essential role labor plays in our community, nation and world.


"UI Labor Center has made an incredible impact on me and my students.  They provide a critical role for UI and our community and I can’t imagine Iowa without this essential resource.  I’ve always considered UI Labor Center to be one of our coveted University’s greatest resources. We should not only maintain UI Labor Center, but also grow and enthusiastically support it.” 


—Alisa Meggitt, Middle School Global Studies Teacher, Iowa City 

The Labor Center Is One of the Best Labor Education Programs in the Country

“I retired after 29 years from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. During my career, I often attended labor conferences hosted by the Iowa Labor Center, engaged in collaboration with members of the staff, and observed them speaking and teaching. 


"I can assure you that attempting to close this program is a huge mistake. You have in Iowa for decades now a jewel of a program. It is clearly one of the best labor education programs in the country. Its staff has consistently been outstanding, innovative, and successful in providing working people and their unions with the skills to resolve disputes. They develop leaders who can communicate and do critical analysis of problems aiding both labor and management to resolve their differences peacefully.


"What you destroy in a year would take years to regain, and in the meantime working people in Iowa, would be without the leadership development or the opportunities for self-actualization so long provided by the Labor Center. Reconsider the decision to close the Labor Center and instead keep it open, reinvest in it, and rescind the layoff notices.” 


Judy Ancel, UMKC Workers Education & Labor Studies, retired

The Labor Center Contributes to Iowa and Higher Education

“As a scholar and teacher  (and Iowa Ph.D.), I know well the many ways the Labor Center contributes to Iowa and higher education. In my own research the Labor Oral History Project has been invaluable. As a professor at a select liberal arts college, I have used the many scholarly materials produced by the Center in my courses. The staff and faculty's programs with Iowa's residents is a model of community engagement. It is incomprehensible that the Center would close.” 


Dennis Deslippe, Associate Professor, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA 

Labor Center Provides Critical Information to Workers and Communities of Faith

“The University of Iowa Labor Center is a unique organization, having no counterpart in the Regents system that addresses the issues of worker’s rights, safety and health, and in doing so is involved in immigration, family issues (maternity leave, child care), medical care, and human trafficking.   These issues all are of importance to the Church.


"The Labor Center’s expertise has been critical in emergencies involving Iowa workers, such as the ICE raid in Mount Pleasant, where they were able to provide critical information to workers and those of us responding in the communities of faith. Most recently, in Ottumwa and Newton, construction firms were engaged in everything from wage theft to putting employees at physical risk through lack of safety equipment and training.


"We have attended and participated in public workshops sponsored by the Labor Center on topics ranging from labor history, through wage theft to labor implications of immigration.  A common thread of presentations is the dignity and self-sufficiency of workers, which reflects the Church’s emphasis on the life and dignity of the human person.   We have also attended Labor Center regional trainings on leadership and organization.


"We have been amazed at the professionalism of the Labor Center and envious of its ability as such a small organization to manage much of it budget through donations, fees and grants, to function in ways that benefits the Diocese and many others throughout the state. For all these reasons, I ask to please keep the University of Iowa Labor Center.”


 —Kent E. Ferris, OFS, Director of Social Action & Catholic Charities, Diocese of Davenport

The Labor Center Is Important to the Culture, History and Future of the University

“I served on the Advisory Committee for the Labor Center for over twenty years and have seen the potential for educating working men and women realized.  The Center has been in existence for over sixty years, and the result is a workforce that works smarter and more efficiently, that understands the co-existence of management and labor is enhanced by learning their rights and their responsibilities as employees. I have always maintained that learning is a lifelong process.  The Labor Center is a prime example of the University of Iowa’s contribution to that learning process for students of all ages, on and off the UI campus.  


"Many of the continuing education students served by the Labor Center have not graduated from college. The education they gain from the Labor Center is their only connection to a higher learning experience and it would be detrimental to the University of Iowa's mission to remove that opportunity from these citizens. 

The education the Labor Center provides is a "core" educational opportunity. The UI’s teaching and research missions should encompass both enrolled undergraduate and graduate students (who are indeed served by many Labor Center classes and research activities on campus) and continuing education students off campus who are already working in and paying taxes to our state. 


"The Labor Center uses its limited university funding wisely to support a very full slate of activities on and off campus, and generates additional revenue to cover all of the costs associated with its off-campus classes, conferences, outreach, student research and intern programs, and research projects. It is my understanding that its state allocation amounts to less than one one-thousandth of one percent of General Education Funds. It seems to me that is a small amount even in austere budget times, to continue to devote to a program whose small staff makes such an enormous difference to our state, students, and workforce. The Labor Center is an important part of the culture, history and future effectiveness of the University.” 


—Jerry A. Kearns, State Representative, Iowa House District 86 

U of Iowa Labor Center Is Nationally-Recognized for High Quality Programs

“The University of Iowa Labor Center Labor has been an important member of our organization for many years. The Center is nationally recognized for delivering high quality programs that serve a broad constituency including university students and thousands of workers throughout the state; moreover, the Center plays a critical role engaging the public as an interdisciplinary hub on issues essential to the future of work and employment. 


"With the significant cuts to state funding faced by many institutions in higher education, it is tempting for universities to see programs like the University of Iowa’s Labor Center as expendable. It is not. The University of Iowa’s Labor Center educates working people and their communities, helps raise safety standards and reduce discrimination, promotes leadership and strengthens labor relations, and conducts original and applied research that responds to the University’s core mission. 


"Given the significant outside funding that the University of Iowa’s Labor Center has earned through competitive grants as well as service fees for quality programing, the net cost savings to the University of closing this center would be miniscule, while the true costs to Iowan workers and the state overall would be immeasurable. We call upon the University of Iowa administration to demonstrate your values through respectful treatment and appropriate public funding of this venerable program. 


"Given the urgency of the times, we ask that you move as quickly as possible to reverse course and provide the Labor Center with the resources and support it needs to fulfill its critical mission. We in labor education will applaud you when you do.” 


Mary Bellman, President, United Association for Labor Education

Labor Center Classes Gave Me the Confidence and Ability to Become a Leader

“I am a native of Iowa, born and raised here. 21 years ago, I was a single mother of two. I knew I needed a job that would pay more than the minimum wage, so I went to work in a steel foundry. 


"Foundry workers deal with molten hot metal. It’s 3200 degrees. We deal with silica sand, which is very harmful. It can be very dangerous and grueling. I wanted my coworkers to walk out of that foundry when they hit the time clock the same way that they walked in that morning. The Labor Center gave me the tools to implement better health and safety committees that would function, not just go through the motions. 


"We also face workplace discrimination and harassment. I didn’t want my co-workers to endure that. The Labor Center gave us the tools and the knowledge to combat that. 


"The Labor Center who gave me the confidence and ability to represent my coworkers and keep them safe in healthy working conditions and wages. In reality, the Labor Center reaches far more workers than the 2100 plus workers they directly teach every year. We go back into the plants and tell our coworkers what we’ve learned. 

Through the value of education, we were able to achieve safer and better wages in my plant. I was able to send both of my children to college. My youngest graduated this May from the University of Iowa and is contemplating going to the University of Iowa College of Law. He’ll be taking the LSATs in September. I want to remind the University that it’s Iowa workers who are also parents. We’re tax-paying parents and we’re tuition paying parents of children who attend this University. And we need these programs. 


"I urge the University to keep this program open. There’s been state funding set aside for generations for this purpose, and you need to honor your commitment to keep this program open and maintain this for working Iowans.”

—Stacey Anderson, Staff Representative, Glass Molders and Pottery, Plastics, and Allies Workers’ Union

The Labor Center Exemplifies Best Practices in Education & Community Outreach

“People look to the University of Iowa as a world-renowned institution dedicated to the education and formation of individuals for the building up of our society and our communities. The university does this not only in its classrooms and laboratories, but through outreach and service in Iowa’s communities. 


"By means of the Labor Center, the university has served our community through the provision of high quality, relevant, and accessible education to thousands of individuals about and for workers. The Labor Center has been able to do this through the good stewardship of state, federal, and private funding. They offer an invaluable line-up in terms of education. Workers are offered classes at an hour that is accessible to them, they are provided with materials that are language and user-friendly, and they learn about their legal rights in the workplace as well as about health and safety standards. 


"Anyone who knows work of the Labor Center knows it is a hub of interdisciplinary research, dedicated to historical inquiry and public engagement. This, to me, exemplifies best practices in education and community outreach. Because not only are Iowa workers given career support, but educators are able to provide academic expertise, while students are given the opportunity to participate in mentorship programs, conduct research, and go back to Iowa communities from which they came. If walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it is a duck. In my mind, the labor center is a duck, fulfilling its mission as a highly qualified academic organization which functions as a bridge between Regents universities and Iowa’s working people. Iowans need to know that the labor center is the sole unit that specializes in workplace and labor issues in Iowa. That is a high price to pay if we lose it. I would hate to see this duck put on the endangered species list. 


"My personal experience with the Labor Center goes back over ten years and has been nothing but positive. As a pastor, as a man of faith, I am grateful that at such high levels of the academic world, in the Labor Center we have an ally with sincere interest in leveling the playing field for all Iowans. Where the working poor, the socially marginalized, can acquire some knowledge and skills and find expert advice in a rapidly changing economic and legal environment. I believe that Dean Washburn and President Harreld are educated and moral men. I believe they know the difference between right and wrong. The Labor Center serves our state and our communities well. It would be a shame to lose it." 


Fr. Rudy Juarez, St. Patrick Catholic Church, Iowa City