Our Mission

The mission of The University of Iowa Labor Center is to provide educational programs and research support to Iowa’s working people and their organizations.

The Labor Center is a bridge between the University and Iowa’s labor community offering a wide range of non-credit courses designed for workers of all ages and backgrounds and leaders of labor and other community-based organizations. 

If you are interested in attending or hosting classes, consider coming to the UI campus for the Labor Center's on-campus programs or contact us so we can tailor an off-campus program just for you.

Our History

Since 1951, The University of Iowa Labor Center has strengthened Iowa communities by conducting research and education that equips Iowans to navigate the ever-changing world of work. Through generations of deep engagement with Iowa workers and their organizations, the center is a critical point of convergence, where students and faculty come together with labor, faith, and community leaders to address some of the most pressing challenges affecting Iowa and the world – from economic inequality and workplace health and safety to racial justice, gender equity, and, most recently, climate change.

Iowa’s legislature first designated funding for a university-based Labor Center in 1950 as part of the Bureau of Labor and Management within the University of Iowa’s College of Commerce. Labor education programs were initiated to “foster greater understanding of their communities and unions, and thereby contribute to the greater effectiveness of workers in meeting their responsibilities as citizens and trade unionists.”1 To celebrate the center’s first year, University President Virgin M. Hancher spoke in 1952 before the Iowa Industrial Union Council to assure Iowa's labor community that, “the State University is their university, that it is the university of all the people… we in Iowa City are careful never to forget that fact.”2

Today, housed within the College of Law, the Labor Center continues to uphold this mission by:

  • serving over 2,000 workers each year in statewide classes and public conferences,
  • conducting applied research on labor issues,
  • acting as a bridge between working Iowans in every industry and the University community,
  • developing innovative materials and methods for adult education that have attracted national grants and awards, and
  • linking students to labor-related research, teaching, and placement opportunities.

1 University of Iowa Bureau of Labor and Management, “The Labor Education Service,” n.d.
2 Proceedings of the Iowa Industrial Union Council, 1952, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City