Special Projects

Human Rights in Performance

Co-convened by the Labor Center and award-winning local playwright Janet Schlapkohl, Human Rights in Performance is a UI Center for Human Rights Working Group project selected for funding support in 2014-15 and again in 2015-16. In its first year, the project yielded a new short play titled "Voice lessons," based on experiences of Iowa low-wage and immigrant workers who have experienced wage theft. The play script, developed using participatory research in collaboration with members of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, is now serving as an innovative platform to engage and educate Iowa audiences about labor and human rights violations, and provide the basis for "know your rights" education and community dialogues.

Remaking the Midwest: Documenting the Occupational Culture of Recent Immigrants in Iowa's Meatpacking Industry

The Labor Center has been awarded a 2015-2016 Archie Green Fellowship from the U.S. Library of Congress American Folklife Center to conduct a series of oral history interviews with foreign-born workers in Iowa's meatpacking industry. In recent decades, the state's meatpacking industry has been transformed by technological and organizational change and the arrival of new waves of immigrants and refugees from across the globe, including from Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Using digitally recorded audio interviews, this project seeks to document the ways in which these workers have shaped (and been shaped by) the state's work and community life. Resulting oral histories will become part of permanent collections in both the Library of Congress and the Iowa Labor History Oral Project (see below) housed in the State Historical Society of Iowa's Labor Collections.

Iowa Labor History Oral Project

For over four decades, the Labor Center has coordinated the Iowa Labor History Oral Project (ILHOP), an innovative statewide initiative to document Iowa's rich labor and working class history through the collection and preservation of oral histories. A joint project of the Iowa Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO), the Labor Center, and the State Historical Society of Iowa, ILHOP is widely recognized as a model for long-standing university-community engagement, and as one of the most comprehensive state-level labor oral history collections in the world.

Triangle Factory Fire Anniversary Events

In 2011, the Labor Center co-sponsored a series of public events to mark the 100-year anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and examine its legacy in the present. Click here for more details.

Workplace Non-Discrimination Rights under Immigration Law

In 2010-2012, the Labor Center received grant funding from the U.S. Department of Justice to provide education on workplace non-discrimination rights under federal immigration law. In partnership with The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest, and the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service, the Labor Center conducted workshops to educate workers, union leaders, and advocates in the Midwest about these legal rights and disseminated educational materials to educators and labor organizations across the country. The project was overseen by the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) in the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

Child Labor Public Education Project

In 2002-2004 the Labor Center, in partnership with The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to design a series of curricular materials on international child labor and its relationship to international workers' rights, international trade, and children's health issues. The resulting Child Labor Public Education Project generated four interactive popular education modules which were piloted and disseminated through a series of over 50 workshops presented to Iowa unions, teachers, students, and churches. All curricular materials remain available for download on the Child Labor Public Education Project web site.

Ergonomics Education for the Construction Industry

In 2003 the Labor Center, in partnership with the University of Iowa Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, was awarded a Susan Harwood Training Grant from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to conduct a year-long program on "Ergonomics Education for the Construction Industry." This project yielded an innovative ergonomics curriculum which was piloted through a series of courses for union members from the building trades, a topic which remains part of current Labor Center offerings.

Iowa State Labor Press Association

Since the 1980s, the Labor Center been an active supporter of and conference host for the Iowa State Labor Press Association, an organization of union newsletter editors in Iowa. The ISLPA is supported by the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, and other unions in Iowa. For more information, contact ISLPA President, Lance Coles: lanceapwu@yahoo.com.