Labor Center Continues Work Despite Closure Notice

Jul 23, 2018

An on-campus worker education program is still looking for solutions, after the University of Iowa announced it’s closing the center down.

The University of Iowa Labor Center is one of seven programs slated for closure due to budget cuts. School officials have said four other programs are facing slimmer budgets, but are not closing outright.

Still, the Labor Center’s board members and staffers are looking for ways to educate workers about their rights. Program Director Jennifer Sherer sees the organization, which provides trainings on worker's compensation, workplace harassment, and business management among other topics, as something worth fighting for.

"It's been important that the state and the university have for decades made some small, at least, commitment to funding a tiny part of the Regents university system that is devoted to education, research and community engagement around workplace issues in Iowa," said Sherer.

She said the center's advisors, made up largely of representatives from area unions, agree. 

"They're not ready to see that commitment evaporate overnight," Sherer said. "People are just really hungry to continue the discussion of what the public university’s mission is going to be going forward."

According to Sherer, center employees have about 9 to 12 months left on the job, per university furlough notices. But Sherer said she's continuing conversations with administrators at the College of Law, which houses the center, and officials throughout the university administration. 

“I think we have lots of decision makers at different levels paying attention and focused on the need to find a solution…on a much shorter timeline than 9 to 12 months from now,” Sherer said.

Nonetheless, university officials have said the decision announced July 10th to pull funding from various centers and programs is final. The cuts are estimated to save the university some $3.5 million.

In the meantime, Sherer said the closure notice isn't stopping Labor Center staffers from doing their work, including holding occupational health trainings and conducting research on policy changes to worker's compensation in the state.