Labor

Funding Ideology, Not Research, at University of California 'Labor Institutes'

An effort in the legislature to urge UC regents to refrain from expanding labor institutes to UC-Irvine met with union opposition.

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One of the ongoing stains on the integrity of the University of California system is its publicly funded labor institutes. They are union-controlled "think tanks" that are about engaging in left-wing political activism rather than balanced thinking. They churn out one-sided studies that provide fodder for union political objectives. Their most recent efforts gave cover to California's decision to boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.

It's not enough such institutes exist at UCLA and Berkeley. Now, a similar institute may be headed to UC Irvine. "Recently, labor leaders, the UC Irvine's law school Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and community advocates, such as former state Sen. Joe Dunn, came together and began working to establish the UCI Community and Labor Project," wrote the Orange County Employees Association's general manager, Jennifer Muir, in a Register column last month.

Universities are rightly home to varying ideologies and research. But it's wrong to publicly fund a think tank that engages in bald-faced advocacy for one particular group. Union leader Muir found it "disturbing" that Assemblyman Matt Harper (R-Huntington Beach) introduced Assembly Bill 2302 that merely urged the UC regents to "refrain" from forming such a center at Irvine.

"Don't we want our young people to be exposed through the educational system to various ideas about how to address these issues?" Muir asked. I'm guessing the university's world-class economics and political-science departments can handle the task of evaluating various labor-related policies. But it's really disturbing to suggest these think tanks provide "various ideas" about anything. They provide ideas with the union stamp of approval.

"Far from what should be expected from academia, the institute doesn't even hint at a non-partisan agenda and regularly not only trains union organizers (presumably for political purposes) but also authors biased studies," wrote the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association's legislative director, David Wolfe, in a letter supporting the Harper bill.

Note the people behind this effort: labor leaders, community activists, a labor-allied former legislator, state labor lobbyists. Check out the advisory board at the UC Berkeley Labor Center. Virtually every member has a union affiliation. As Harper rightly notes, they are "partisan operations."

Let's say a powerful business organization convinced a legislature in a conservative state to fund studies and research that advanced their political aims. What would we say about that? Everyone has a right to do advocacy work. But should taxpayers fund it? Should it carry the imprimatur of a prestigious state university system?

It's no surprise the Democratic-controlled committee rejected Harper's effort. Strangely enough, the legislative analysis and the UC lobbyist said they weren't aware of plans to expand the institute to Irvine. But a California Federation of Teachers official echoed what Muir said—the gears are in motion to start such a think tank in Irvine.

State funding has been controversial, but the institute still receives direct public funding. It's also dismaying seeing UC's reputation sullied by such priorities. But the real problem is the nature of the research— and the effect it has on political debates across California.

"A new study found that a quarter of the region's workforce would see a 20 percent pay bump if Santa Clara County upped the minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2019," according to a report last week in a San Jose business publication. The county paid $100,000 to—you guessed it—a labor institute to provide such a rosy prediction. The study gave like-minded elected officials political cover.

I first came across the institutes in 2010 when the Berkeley institute produced a study suggesting that public-sector workers receive lower overall compensation than private-sector workers, despite their exceedingly generous pensions. I consulted experts and was astounded by its shortcomings. Take a look at the titles of institute studies. They drip with union bias.

California unions have myriad financial privileges. The state automatically deducts dues payments from public members. Workers must join the union to keep their jobs. Unions are the most powerful lobbies in Sacramento. If they want to produce research that backs their point of view, good for them. But why should taxpayers fund it? Why should the UC system lend credibility to a union group that promotes policies that force it to raise tuition and cut back on education services? Why should Orange County be forced to host one?

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  1. I think the libertarian analysis here should be that there ought not to be any public universities in the first place.

    1. Awesome suggestion. What would you say is the next step to abolishing them?

      1. Napalm, since the infestation there is irredeemable. If that doesn’t work, nuke the sites from orbit.

      2. As Brochettaward bitchily notes, they’re not going anywhere.

        However, the number one way to curtail their power and influence would be by proxy; reduce, restrict, or eliminate Federal student loans and grants. Despite all the whining about “austerity”, I have yet to see a state university that has actually lost a dollar of state funding. What I have seen is state funding get ever lower as a percentage of total revenue for state universities. They are drunk on the sweet nectar of Federal funds.

        1. This would also have the added effects of reducing the power of the Department of Education and its Title IX Inquisition, which in turn would reduce the bloated administrative staffs at universities.

          1. Also, make the university the guarantor of any private loans issued to their students. So if said student goes bankrupt due to trying to pay of a 100K degree in underwater basket weaving, the university is on the hook. This will prune useless disciplines and make them less prone to just grabbing everyone for the cash.

            1. As a libertarian I would be leery of allowing universities to “cull” the range of disciplines that can be studied. Sure they could get rid of stupid -whatever studies majors but whose to say in the current political client they wouldn’t decide to cut various fields of history or economics instead?

        2. I’d say, strategically, push through a “free college” plan that has the job of essentially setting up a nation-wide online completely free for most Americans, and to fund it strip all funding away from traditional public schools. Whenever college administrators complain, repeat the mantra of “This is the step towards universal, free education. Your profit-driven concerns will not stand in the way of progress.”

          Bill it completely as a way to give people “free college”. The online platform, with its ability to reach far greater amounts of people without geographic concerns, will make this one online college cheaper than the amount that’s being dumped into public schools at the moment. And the biggest political supporters of dumping more money into the public colleges have been recruited for your cause, because the cybercollege gives them the “free college” they want, and you can paint the cronyist goons in the public college sector as evil businessmen, while at the same time you are reducing the amount spent publicly on education.

          1. After you’ve tricked all the college students to support this, you later decide that your cybercollege should only train people in in-demand skills, and you make it cease offering degrees in gender studies, communications, and the arts, branding those things as luxuries. But, as a “compromise”, you agree to lessen the standards and make accreditation easier for newer colleges who want to enter the online college business, so they can more easily enter the industry.

            Eventually, with public funding for traditional colleges down, the new colleges spawned by the easier accreditation will probably result in more students signing up for the private online colleges, rather than relying on the almost certainly inferior public online college, and we can begin phasing out the public one.

            Dismantle the bloated amounts of money going towards higher education through government through a “free college” narrative.

          2. Oh, and of course stop offering government loans at the same time you pull the plug on government funding. There might be outrage over that, but you can probably alleviate it by promising that all credits earned by people who relied on loans before this point in time will transfer to cybercollege.

            1. That reads like a really good plan. Maybe you can sell it to Trump. Or to Biden. It’s just a matter of getting the ear of someone who’s got the ear of someone who’s got their ear.

    2. Stick to making snide remarks about yokels. I think you suck at that, as well, but at least it’s less irritating than moronic comments like this.

      We aren’t getting rid of public universities. They’re here and we are stuck with them. The article here is only arguing against growing the beast. There was no approval for public funding in the first place. It’s not even implicitly there.

      Beyond that, perhaps you can mesh your stance here with your defense of accommodation laws elsewhere. Difference being is that those articles actually argued for increasing state interference.

      1. We’re stuck with the beast growing, too. Treat cancer or remove it: your call.

    3. Yeah let’s do the conservative thing and send kids to the world leading U of Phoenix

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  5. Ah man, I’ve seen the facebooks of those student council kids. They all need their asses whooped, a good ass whooping would do them right.

    Until then, all political protest and groups should be banned. You can have your public uni, just no political discussion. Simple and done.

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  7. One of the ongoing stains on the integrity of the University of California system is its publicly funded labor institutes.

    Publicly funded Universities are the seminaries and reeducation camps of the Progressive Theocracy.

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    1. One of the ongoing stains on the integrity of the University of California system

      One of… many. In fact, are there any unstained portions of its integrity left?

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