Guest Columnist

Labor Center solidarity

Sticks of chalk sit around a partially completed drawing of the Old Capitol Building during the third annual Rock the Chalk community art festival in downtown Iowa City on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Sticks of chalk sit around a partially completed drawing of the Old Capitol Building during the third annual Rock the Chalk community art festival in downtown Iowa City on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

The University of Iowa recently announced it would be closing the University of Iowa Labor Center, due to the ever-popular excuse of “budget cuts.”

Six other centers that serve the community and support a social purpose were also placed on the chopping block. All of this is perfectly in line with the corporate dogma and mission of the university, President Bruce Harreld, and his front office.

Harreld was handpicked for his job to do exactly what he is doing; support corporate interests. The confusing aspect is not that Harreld wants to kill the Labor Center, but that he still isn’t honest about it. Budget cuts? The budget is not the issue.

The Labor Center provides support to unions and helps educate and train workers about their rights. So, the Center works against Harreld and the business interests he serves.

Harreld has no connection to Iowa or its people and community. He doesn’t care about benefiting the citizens and the public. He’s part of the movement to dismantle and privatize all public institutions.

So he should just be honest about it. At this stage of things in our country, what is the use in being coy? The White House is blatant in everything it does.

The ideology of conservatives who work in the public sector is to destroy government and create complete private ownership. So be upfront about it and own this ideology of decimation.

For those of us who believe exactly the opposite of this ideology — who believe in the necessity of a collective public good, in community, and the virtue of service — it is up to us to stand and fight for it. People like Harreld want less democracy, less input, and for power to rest in the hands of private enterprise.

Organized labor and collective action by workers and common voters gets in the way of this vision. But make no mistake, this is the vision they are putting forward and implementing. And don’t be fooled by the faux equation that the “market” equals freedom or liberty. The market isn’t an organic entity. It is a system that operates under the control of those who directly benefit from it.

So why care about the Labor Center? Because of another Iowan, Herbert Hoover. Hoover listened and followed the logic of men like Harreld and their worldview: let businessmen rule the world. And then they hit an iceberg.

It was organized labor and the work of the New Deal that lifted this country from the grave that business dug for it. It is ordinary people coming together through the process of their elected government to secure the public good and serve the public’s will. Not to secure the will of the CEO.

I’m a University of Iowa graduate. I call on all other graduates and supporters to pledge not to give any money or support to UI until these closures are dismissed. No football tickets, no alumni donations, nothing, until the Labor Center is allowed to carry on with its work.

So call the Iowa Board of Regents. Call Harreld’s office. Let your voice be heard.

We need to stand with those people in our state and in our community who are doing the real work to make it better.

We need to recognize that we all benefit when we put people and the rights of workers first.

• Adam Kenworthy is an attorney and chairman of the American Constitution Society’s Iowa Lawyer Chapter.

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