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UC restores $4 million to rescue labor studies programs

UC President Mark Yudof has allocated $2 million each to the UCLA and UC Berkeley labor-studies programs to keep them running through the end of this fiscal year, in the hope that the state will pick up the tab for 2009-10, as UC has requested.

The Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and the Center for Labor Research and Education at UCLA, along with the UC Berkeley programs, were unexpectedly stripped of their funding for 2008-09 in September. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed their $5.4 million, the only item in the $3 billion UC budget to be axed. The programs, which have repeatedly been the subject of heated debate between Democrats and Republicans in the state Legislature in recent years, are under the umbrella of the UC Miguel Contreras Labor Program.

While the $4 million provided by UC will keep the doors open for the labor-studies programs at the two campuses, funding for two related programs that provide grants for labor-studies pilot programs and research at other UC campuses was not restored.

"This is a huge boost to us, shifting us from emergency triage to basically full functionality, so we are tremendously grateful to President Yudof for this decision," saidChristopher Tilly, director of UCLA's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. "We aim to put the money to work in ways that will help the people of California and the community of scholars who do research and teaching about work and employment."

Tilly said that while it does make sense to keep the UCLA and UC Berkeley programs going, since staff and ongoing research and educational programs would have been cut otherwise, "We are regretful that the UC President’s office decided not to fund the programs that support labor research and education activities across all 10 UC campuses."

More than 400 faculty and staff from all over California, including 112 from UCLA, signed a petition addressed to Schwarzenegger to protest that his veto targeted only the labor programs in the entire UC budget. "Given the tiny amount of savings, it is hard to understand this action as other than politically motivated," the petition read. "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; this freedom is a cornerstone of the vital, world-class university California needs."

Tilly said Schwarzenegger sent back a letter, blaming legislators for presenting him with a budget with one of the lowest reserves in recent history – reserve money that the state needs to respond to unexpected emergencies, such as wildfires. "In order to increase the reserves and keep that safety net for California," the governor wrote, "I had to make some very painful cuts."