Democratic Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez is now telling reporters that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will guarantee "permanent" funding for the Institute for Labor and Employment (ILE) at UC Berkeley and UCLA, whose $6 million was "inadvertently" left out of his new budget. It marks a new milestone on Arnold's slow motion stagger toward liberalism. The ILE, often cited in the press as a division of the University of California or a labor think tank, is really a prime example of left-wing agit-prop funded by taxpayers.
The ILE began during the administration of Gray Davis with a grant of $6 million for a "Multi-Campus Research Unit for Labor Studies." That took place with little or no attention from the press, Republicans or business and taxpayer groups. Soon the ILE was deploying leftist academics and activists in tasks that failed to draw the press attention they deserved.
The ILA worked three shifts attacking free enterprise and capitalism with material such as "Making People Pro-Union: Organizing Workers in the Culture of Capitalism," and curriculum materials for distribution in California public schools. It drew some opposition with a study purporting to show that Agua Caliente casino workers were underpaid. The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians charged that the work was "seriously flawed" and responded with a study of their own refuting the results. That failed to stop the ILE's politicized activism under the guise of scholarship.
The ILE promoted Laboring to Learn, a project with a clearly stated goal: “To understand how adult educators can conduct popular education and critical pedagogy to help build a multi-racial, gender-balanced, anti-imperialist and working class political movement that is capable of negating labor defined as exploitation.”
In 2003, when voters moved to recall Gray Davis, the ILE launched WAR, Workers Against the Recall. Things got nasty when, with TV cameras looking on, ILE activists and pro-recall protestors threw down outside a WAR training seminar. But even pockets stuffed with taxpayer dollars could not prevent the fall of Davis and the victory of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who in December of 2002 eliminated $2 million of the $4 million appropriated to the ILE in the 2003-04 budget.
Arnold's proposed budget for 2004-05 eliminated all funding for the program, but he struck a deal with Democrats to restore $3.8 million. By then the ILE had received $22.8 million in direct taxpayer funding. Without budget cuts, the amount would have been $28.6 million. Leftist academics portrayed the cuts as attacks on academic freedom, the workers, and of course the people.
After Arnold's action, ILE staff and some Democratic legislators began to leverage the University of California to save the program by doling out money from the university’s general fund. As the Los Angeles Times reported, administration officials claimed that Schwarzenegger would honor a supposed agreement with legislative leaders to ask the University of California to “use other funds to keep the labor studies program going.”
The UC had plenty of money for that purpose. It had been hiking student fees and doling out fat bonuses to already highly paid administrators. (See "Shakedown at UC Davis," April 26, 2006.) But whatever funds they could slide to the ILE was not enough for Democrats such as Fabian Nunez, whose radical background has proven no impediment to a thriving political career, and who now acts as de-facto governor.
Nunez told the Los Angeles Times that in 1988 he was "ready to join the Sandinistas," then at the nadir of their repressions. His mentors, according to the LA Weekly, include the late Bert Corona, a corrupt Stalinist of unusual ferocity, whose favorite workers state was East Germany. Corona's Hermandad Mexicana Nacional engaged in election fraud and bilked California taxpayers for more than $10 million through adult education programs. When whistleblowers flagged the fraud, the state Department of Education fired them and kept the funds flowing.
Instead of helping the Sandinistas Nunez became an activist with One Stop Immigration in Los Angeles. This was the group that in October of 1994 staged a huge rally against the anti-illegal-alien Proposition 187, complete with speakers denouncing “AmeriKKKa” and “the United Snakes of America.” That month, Nunez spearheaded a student walkout at Ganesha High School in Pomona. The school board had already passed a resolution against Prop 187 but Nunez charged that they had not done enough. The demonstration included anti-gay rhetoric but Nunez told reporters, in orthodox politically correct style, that Latinos were not capable of discrimination.
"After 500 years of having to endure slavery, oppression, exploitation in our community," he explained, "our people are in no way, shape or form able to discriminate."
Nunez duly became political director for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and government affairs director for the Los Angeles Unified School District. His class-struggle vision pitted oppressed Latinos who didn't own the means of production, as "the modern-day slaves of southern California," against a bourgeoisie of malevolent "anglos," a designation that includes people with names such as O'Hoolahan, Horowitz, and even Schwarzenegger.
Climbing to the speakership of the California House, Nunez has dropped shrill rhetoric and showed political skills. Arnold's famous "girlie men" comment, he said, did not bother him but might have upset his daughter. The speaker did betray his true colors when the governor favored an energy policy that would allow business to bypass traditional utilities and shop around for competitive rates. The speaker then accused the governor of relying too much on "the so-called 'invisible hand' of the marketplace . . ."
Nunez wants to build an apparat in the style of Mexico’s PRI party, with support for unions’ agenda rewarded by their political loyalty. But in this objective, the Speaker seems to be swimming against the economic tide. In 1970 about 35 percent of California workers were union members. That dropped to 27 percent in 1980, 18 percent in 1994, and 16.5 percent today, according to the figures released January 25 by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The numbers for 2006 confirm that the slide continues.
Unions now represent only 12 percent of all workers, seven percent of private-sector workers and 36.2 percent of public-sector workers. Put another way, 83.5 percent of California workers are not in unions. Yet because of figures like Nunez, the minority retains incredible power and privilege, backed by the state.
The Davis-Bacon Act, a racist measure against black workers, reserves public projects for union labor, as do PLAs or project labor agreements. Both drive up costs for taxpayers. Under agency-fee rules, unions can even confiscate money from non-members, and there is little to stop them from using it for political purposes, even those ad odds with their own members. The powerful public-sector unions have elected the same people with whom they negotiate. As Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee has noted, the powerful government employee unions have replaced the railroads as the group that actually runs the state.
In his first term, Arnold tried to reprise his role as the "Terminator" by seeking to check that power with a measure that would have required unions to secure permission for the political use of money they confiscate from others. The unions dug into their deep pockets to fight the measure, which failed at the polls, as did all the governor's reasonable efforts to trim waste and secure accountability. Arnold started to sound less like someone who admired Milton Friedman and more like Speaker Nunez, whose own health-care plan relies heavily on the visible hand of government.
Meanwhile, there is the issue of the Institute for Labor and Employment, which Arnold once saw as a radical boondoggle but now isn’t so sure. Nothing stops the ILE and the rest of the left from raising its own money, but that's not what Fabian Nunez wants. The speaker, an ex officio UC regent, not only wants taxpayers to fund the ILE permanently, but has renamed it the Miguel Contreras Labor Institute after the late LA labor boss and another of Nunez's militant mentors. The UC regents have approved the name change, a clever move that will make any attempt to cut public funding for the ILE an "attack on Latinos," etc.
The Terminator has not only failed to terminate special privilege but shows little reluctance to perform whatever Speaker Nunez wants. That includes making the state an omnipresent wet nurse and, according to all indications, shaking down taxpayers in perpetuity "to help build a multi-racial, gender-balanced, anti-imperialist and working class political movement that is capable of negating labor defined as exploitation.”
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