Monday Memo: news & views about working at UC

For the Week of May 15, 2017

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California audit revelations about secret UC funds and executive salaries have led to serious calls for change, from a constitutional amendment to “punish UC whenever it pays administrators too much” (San Francisco Chronicle), to the state’s withholding of $50 million until UC adopts state audit reforms (Los Angeles Times).

One of the governor’s budget challenges is the tying of tuition increases to rising Cal Grant costs, notes UCLA professor Michael Meranze, which will “limit the state’s ability to increase General Fund support [to UC and CSU] in the future.”

There have been several weeks of outrage over the audit revelations, from campuses changing their responses to confidential audit information in response to UCOP “tampering” (San Francisco Chronicle), to the “lavish spending practices” of the UC president’s office (San Francisco Chronicle). UC president Janet Napolitano responded to what she called the “mischaracterizations” of UCOP’s “accounting practices and expenditures” (San Francisco Chronicle), and two Chronicle reporters took a look at the “$175 million UC hid from the public.”

To lend “perspective to [today’s debate] about free speech on university campuses,” a Los Angeles Times columnist writes about how “anti-communist hysteria almost destroyed the University of California.”
On the national front, Donald Trump’s administration will be bad news for workers. The Economic Policy Institute offers an assessment of his administration’s actions on labor issues.

Politico’s Morning Shift reports
that Trump’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board will undermine worker and union protection. One appointee is from the anti-union law firm Littler Mendelson, while another is an out-and-out union-busting attorney. “This will present an opportunity to revisit some of the cases from the Obama NLRB,” said one pro-management observer, overturning precedents.

Some of those precedents include recognizing graduate students at universities as employees and giving them the legal right to unionize. Grad students at Yale organized following an NLRB decision last year and are now in a sustained hunger strike in response to Yale’s aggressive anti-union campaign.

The Trump administration is trying to woo workers using “Buy American, Hire American” rhetoric. But what are the contradictions of such policies for workers in the US and around the world? Labor Notes has a thoughtful interview with UCSC historian Dana Frank on Buy American’s pitfalls.

 “How can unions help create a social movement to take on Wall Street’s economic and political dominance?” asks a recent Labor Notes piece. One response: a crash course in “runaway inequality” and how to fight it. Workshops are happening across the nation. Here’s a list of those upcoming in Northern California.

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