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Memo to the University of California
Defy the Governor and Nix the ILE...

[by K. Lloyd Billingsley] 7/2205

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has ended direct funding for the Institute for Labor and Education (ILE), a union-backed organization which masquerades as a think tank and has been bankrolled by taxpayers to the tune of $22.8 million since 2000. This move was long overdue, but it’s not the end of the story.

K. Lloyd Billingsley
[Courtesty of Pacific Research Institute]

K. Lloyd Billingsley is Editorial Director for the Pacific Research Institute and has been widely published on topics including on popular culture, defense policy, education reform, and many other current policy issues. [go to Billingsley index]

The University of California, which hosts the ILE, can still keep it going out of its general fund. According to one Los Angeles Times story, the governor has agreed to recommend that they do so, likely as part of a budget deal with Democrats. Even with the governor's recommendation, however, the UC should decline to fund the ILE. If unions want a think tank, they should fund it themselves. They have plenty of money to do so.

According to the Secretary of State, the powerful California Teachers Association spent a whopping $6.7 million to lobby state legislators during the first quarter of the current legislative session alone. That is more than 11 times the nearly $600,000 the state Chamber of Commerce paid its lobbyists during the same period and nearly twice the annual $3.8 million the ILE has been getting from California taxpayers. Other unions also spent lavishly and are awash in money. But that is not the only reason the UC should decline to fund the ILE. It is unworthy of the academic camouflage the prestigious university provides.

The ILE is not, as labor bosses contend, the equivalent of a business school. Strictly speaking, the ILE is not even a think tank. It is an organization for union propaganda and recruitment. The ILE held conferences and seminars on union organizing and in 2003 trained the partisan activists of the Workers Against the Recall (WAR). The ILE tried to pass off as an academic study left-wing boilerplate such as Making People Pro-Union: Organizing Workers in the Culture of Capitalism. Its efforts on living-wage ordinances, the alleged evils of Wal-Mart, and the promotion of union-only project labor agreements (PLAs) were all agenda-driven propaganda.

The UC should consider that union membership has dropped to its lowest level in 50 years. In the private sector, unions represent a scant 7.9 percent of workers, down from a meager 8.2 percent in 2003. While 36.4 percent of government employees are unionized, that represents a decline from 37.2 in 2003. But despite the dwindling membership, unions still wield political clout and get special privileges.

The Davis-Bacon Act, originally used against African-American workers, guarantees expensive union labor on public-works projects. Project labor agreements and prevailing-wage measures do the same thing at state and local levels. The law allows unions to confiscate money from non-members through agency fees. In California, unions even get taxpayers to foot the bill for union propaganda and recruitment.

The University of California should stick to its mandate of providing the state's best students with a world-class higher education. It would not be a responsible use of public funds to reserve special treatment for a shrinking minority that represents only 7.9 percent of private-sector employees.

The governor deserves credit for ending the ILE's direct funding. He can now turn his attention to privatizing more state services and eliminating many other wasteful programs, boards, and commissions. CRO

copyright 2005 Pacific Research Institute




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