Guest Opinion: ‘Support the Labor Center,’ University of Illinois labor-education program director tells UI

The University of Illinois labor-education program director urges the UI to backtrack on its proposal to close the Labor Center in a letter addressed to UI President Bruce Harreld.


Thomas A. Stewart

Community members gather on the Pentacrest to protest the closing of the Labor Center on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018.

Dear President Harreld:

We write, as the deans and directors of academic programs at Big Ten universities that provide labor education services to the people of our state, to urge you to reverse the proposed plans to close the University of Iowa Labor Center. Currently, nine of the 11 states with Big Ten universities have laboreducation programs (including Iowa). Our institutions have a mandate to provide educational services to our state’s workforce that in many cases goes back to the early post-World War II era. We further encourage you to provide the resources Iowa needs to continue its excellent and highly respected work.

The UI Labor Center is recognized among its peer Big Ten institutions for delivering high quality programs that serve a broad constituency including university students and thousands of workers throughout the state. The Center educates working people and their communities in the best tradition of Midwest Big Ten universities. It not only provides extensive employment-based education to the state’s labor force but also conducts original and applied research. The Center’s educational performance does significant good for the people of Iowa, including helping to raise workplace safety standards and reduce discrimination, promote leadership, and strengthen labor relations. Its record of classes taught and research completed is directly responsive to the university’s core mission.

The Iowa Labor Center embodies the objectives of a state university by serving all segments of the people who live and work in Iowa. The contributions of labor centers in higher education add tremendous value to the institutions of which they are a part, and the communities within which those institutions function.

Given the significant outside funding that the UI’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 the center would be miniscule, while the true costs to Iowa workers and the state overall would be immeasurable.

We therefore, call upon the UI administration to demonstrate your commitment to the mission our venerable institutions share and appropriately support the Labor Center.


Robert Bruno

Director of the Labor Education Program,

University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign

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