CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — With six public hearings to educate community leaders on the importance of the University of Iowa's Labor Center, the almost 70 year old institution is fighting against its closure. With $16 million in state budget cuts, the university says it was forced to announce the closure of several other centers to save around $3.5 million dollars. For officials with the Labor Center however, the question of how the decision was made remains.
"Not only had we not been consulted at the center but really not any stakeholders around the state had any chance to give input to the university what the impact of the labor center is," Jennifer Sherer the Director of the Labor Center said.
To her, the initiative to let state representatives, community leaders and the general public know will give everyone an idea of how fundamental the center is to workers around the state.
"What I didn't know was how intensely devoted people are to make this is be there for the next generation of Iowans too," Sherer said. "The problem is there hasn't been a commitment to restore any of the university funding."
The public hearing at a local union hall in Cedar Rapids is the second one to invite the community to speak. Union members, workers and other interested visitors were able to speak to a panel on why the Labor Center is important to them and why it should be preserved. An organizer for the event, Hawkeye Labor Council Executive Director Rick Moyle things the sheer uniqueness of center should make it a priority for the University to preserve it.
"This particular labor center is known throughout the nation, it's truly a gem," Moyle said. "For the University of Iowa to even consider cutting this program at this time when all across the united states there have been numerous attacks on workers and their rights, it's never been needed more so than today.
According to the center, they engage roughly 2000 workers across 70 counties with education ranging from workers rights to employment law but also union history. That's why Joe Zahorik, an iron worker with a decade long union tradition thinks the center needs to stay.
"It would definitely create an environment more hostile towards workers." Zahorik said. "It would be tougher for people to fight for their rights because they won't know them."