Budget Cuts Lead to UI Job Losses

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- UPDATE: Labor Center responds to closing decision

"We don't know what happens to all of the curriculum and resources that people ask for constantly," said Jennifer Sherer. "Where do they go?"

The University of Iowa's Labor Center Director Jennifer Sherer said she feels blindsided by news that her center and others are closing. She said she has a lot of unanswered questions.

The University of Iowa announced Tuesday it's closing several of its campus centers and it's cutting dozens of staff. University leaders blame state budget cuts. The university plans to close seven centers and programs and reduce funding to six other centers or initiatives. This means 33 jobs will be cut because of the changes, with other workers placed on furlough.

The university told TV-9 it tried to avoid hurting students in these decisions. But the Labor Center, which will close and eliminating five full time positions, said this directly impacts students and it intends to fight.

"Who is it that wants to cut Iowans off from access to information and education and research about their rights on the job?" said Sherer.

The Labor Center tackles issues like workplace injuries and sexual harassment. She said the decision doesn't make sense.

"The consequences, in comparison to the tiny budgetary savings that would be attached to closing the program, is really impossible to measure," said Sherer.

University Provost Sue Curry said the cost-cutting measures are troubling but necessary due to financial realities.

"There's no joy in this. these are very hard decisions," said Curry. "They affect people's livelihood and that doesn't feel good. The work that the centers do is important work so I'm not going to sit here and tell you this feels like a good thing."

The school said choosing these programs was intentional because they hurt students less than eliminating majors, for example.

"We are looking forward to our students coming back in the fall and having a great educational experience and not feeling any loss," said Curry.

"(We) have helped students who want to be experts in labor and employment law, practice that while they're still in school, we have helped students do groundbreaking research on workplace issues that other units don't have the ability to do," said Sherer.

Sherer said she isn't giving up just yet.

"Thousands of people from around the state who have benefited from our programs and who care about our programs and this center to my mind is really the property of the citizens of Iowa," said Sherer.

Some of the closures will start this year, others will happen next year, and others don't have a set timeline yet. Employees on furlough can expect that to last up to a year.