Advocates of Labor Program Decry Governor's Line-Item Veto of Funding

In an Open Letter to the Governor, UC Faculty Suggest Funding Cuts Are Politically Motivated

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More than 400 University of California professors and faculty have sent an open letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, criticizing his decision to completely cut funding for labor education and research centers on UC campuses.

The governor line-item vetoed $5.4 million allotted to the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program, including the UC Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, in the 2008-09 state budget signed on Sept. 23 after an 85-day impasse.

The labor research program was the only item vetoed in the $3 billion UC budget this year, leading faculty to question the governor's motives.

"Given the tiny amount of savings, it is hard to understand this action as other than politically motivated," states the letter, which was signed by roughly 100 UC Berkeley faculty. "We see this as unwarranted political interference in the academic activities of the University of California. It violates the basic principle of the freedom to speak out and conduct research even on controversial topics."

The institute's directors-UC Berkeley professor of economics Michael Reich and UCLA professor of urban planning Chris Tilly-drafted the letter and said the labor institute has been singled out by Republican leaders.

"It's chilling that a governor of a state can reach deep into a university budget and veto the funds for a program he doesn't like, as opposed to a program being cut for academic reasons," Reich said. "We were not given an academic review. We have excellent programs, we are supported by the chancellor."

Founded in 1945, the institute sponsors faculty-run research centers and community service programs, publishes an academic journal and houses a research library.

"We do research, education and outreach programs that involve labor unions," Reich said. "We think that is the reason we have been singled out."

The veto is not unprecedented. Schwarzenegger cut the program's funding entirely several times in the past decade. Each time, the university reallocated money in its budget to sustain the program, and the legislature included the program in the following budget, Reich said.

"We have a lot of support in the legislature," he said. "We expect they will put us back in the January budget."

UC President Mark Yudof has

committed to help fund the institute for the 2008-09 academic year,

according to UC spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez, who added that the exact amount and source of the funding have yet to be determined.

According to California State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, the governor went against his promise to sustain the institute.

"The governor has ... broken his promise, again, to fund the Miguel Contreras Labor Institute. I am deeply disappointed in his actions today," Bass said in a statement.

Schwarzenegger vetoed a total of $510 million before signing the state budget this year.

"The governor had to make a lot of difficult decisions," said H.D. Palmer, deputy director of the State Department of Finance. "We are operating in a time of significant fiscal pressure. ... This shouldn't be construed as a commentary on the value or worth of any particular program."

Reich said the economic situation is exactly what makes the labor program so vital.

"These programs are the only ones at the university that speak directly to the issues of working families," he said. "In these economic times, it's more important than ever."


Contact Marta Belcher at [email protected]

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