Fighting Back against Labor Center Closure

posted by WMT News/KCRG-TV9 - 

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Some people are upset over what state budget cuts are doing to the University of Iowa. Specifically, county and University leaders from around the area want to convince the board of regents to keep the University's Labor Center.

The university announced plans to close some campus centers last month, after a reduction of funding from the state legislature. That cut the University of Iowa's budget by about five and a half million dollars. Closing the labor center and six others, along with 33 job losses, will make up about three and a half million of that.

The director of the Labor Center said she felt blindsided by the news from the very beginning as the closure will affect so many workers, including an Ironworker who said the program has been a key to helping him run things efficiently.

"I was devastated," said Joe Zahorik.

Zahorik is a fourth-generation ironworker. He said the University of Iowa Labor Center means a lot to him, not only from a historical standpoint through their years of record-keeping but through what he's learned from it as well.

"It would be a huge loss to the community. If we don't know where we came from we don't know where we're going," said Zahorik.

Zahorik said he's attended different leadership training seminars there and the skills he's been able to develop, he uses on a day-to-day basis in the workplace.

Dozens of other workers came out to Thursday's meeting to tell city leaders exactly that. The Labor Center said all the information compiled will be sent over to the Board of Regents, hoping to change their minds.

The Labor Center said all the information compiled will be sent over to the Board of Regents, hoping to change their minds.

"It's a 67-year-old center," said University of Iowa Labor Center Director Jennifer Sherer. "It's something that generations of Iowans have developed and invested in. It's been around a long time before I came around and should be there a long time after."

"If workers don't know their rights, they don't know they're being exploited and I feel like that's something that's being chipped away at slowly and this would be a pretty bad blow for that," said Zahorik.

The University of Iowa says they said they still stand by their original comment last month, saying that choosing these programs was troubling but necessary due to financial realities.

There will be five more demonstrations like Thursday's that will happen over the course of the next month, including one in Iowa City September second.

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