How unions took $4 million from cash-strapped UC

Kevin Dayton of the Associated Builders and Contractors of California hunted down the e-mails chronicling the pressure put on University of California President Mark Yudof to provide taxpayer funds for a bogus labor “think tank” after Arnold line-item-vetoed the funding. Here’s part of his


As the state’s budget crisis became acute in 2008, the Legislature gave the labor institute another $5.4 million. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the funding.

This prompted Attorney General Jerry Brown, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and then Senate President Pro Tem-elect Darrell Steinberg to pressure the UC Office of the President to find an alternative funding source. The demand challenged the UC leadership financially and ethically.

“I think if we give them more than $1 million or so in cash, we’d be doing a disservice to the rest of the University,” said an e-mail from Debora Obley, associate vice president in the UC Budget Office. In a later e-mail, she remained dismayed about diverting limited funds from other programs to the labor institute.

“We have $150 million worth of cuts to deal with. That is huge and we don’t have money just lying around. Can you imagine the firestorm inside the University if we cut everyone more in order to fund this one?”

Pressure from top legislative Democrats remained fierce. Greg Campbell, a top labor consultant for the Assembly speaker, declared in an e-mail that “any solution that includes ‘well, the unions should just pay for some portion of the overall mission’ is a tired old argument we have heard before and will not go over well.”

Finally, UC President Mark Yudof included $4 million for the labor institute in his proposed budget approved by the UC Board of Regents. This amount could have protected more than 6,000 resident undergraduate students from the fall 2009 semester fee increase of $662.

Union bosses and their political allies were pacified with the budget decision, but UC Vice President for Budget Patrick Lenz saw irony.

“This is an institute created by the Legislature for the purposes of labor advocacy and training programs,” he wrote in an e-mail.

“The unions benefit by these programs and use them against the UC in their collective bargaining negotiations and advocacy efforts with the Legislature. I’d find it ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ if we get stuck funding these Institutes in the future out of the UC budget at a time when the state is cutting our funding but pressuring us to give more at the collective bargaining table.”

Don’t be surprised if unions try to get Patrick Lenz fired for his honesty.

I blogged about the union hardball with UC last December after talking with Yudof at an editorial board meeting:

Yudof frankly admitted that he faced considerable political pressure to restore $4 million to a program at two UC campuses that serves as a de facto think tank/training camp for union advocates. Democratic legislative leaders under pressure from union leaders demanded the money be restored (Arnold had line-item vetoed it) and they got their way.

How pathetic. How Sacramento. And people think a part-time Legislature is the answer to this sort of routine outrageousness? I don’t get it.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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