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ATTACK AGAINST LABOR STUDY PROGRAMS
The people behind the attack on labor studies don't acknowledge their true target is unions.
By EDUARDO ROSARIO
The 1 percent's attack on labor is multi-faceted.
Our nation's colleges and universities are a key place where the Koch brothers, extremely wealthy families, and U.S. multi-national corporations want to exert their control and influence.
The nation's economic elite donate millions of dollars to higher-education institutions with the understanding that their perspective will be reflected in courses and programs.
The Koch brothers use donations and key connections to amass clout on college campuses, where they spread the gospel of the free market. The money often helps to forward their political goals and to build a "talent pipeline" of libertarian-minded students.
Just as we see the spread of doctrine of neoliberalism - which promotes free trade, privatization, and deregulation - on campuses, we are also witnessing more politically-motivated assaults on labor studies programs through budget cuts and the reduction of staff.
One of the earliest attacks was carried out by former California Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, who in 2008 sought to eliminate all funding for the University of California's Institute for Labor and Employment, which had been denounced by conservatives for being critical of business.
The Washington State Labor Education and Research Center started drawing the ire and attention of the right-wing Freedom Foundation in 2014. It all started because the foundation thought it was inappropriate for the labor center to contract with the Washington State Labor Council to provide education on right-to-work legislation.
Helena Worthen raised the alarm about the attack on labor studies in "The Status of Labor Education in Higher Education in the United States," a study commissioned by the United Association for Labor Education (UALE). Her research documents the right-wing effort to snuff out labor education.
In recent years, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has collaborated with right-wing think tanks to challenge the work of labor education programs at public colleges and universities, including the Freedom Foundation, Landmark Foundation and the MacIver and Mackinaw centers.
These groups argue that that using public funding to "promote private interests" was incessant. Such accusations are duplicitous as donors mask their corporate and libertarian agenda as a politically neutral philosophy to students.
We need fight back to prevent the right from controlling our higher education institutions and imposing their ideology on our children.
The labor movement occupies a key space in a democratic society. And labor studies programs play an important role within our movement. The people behind the attack on labor studies don't acknowledge their true target is unions.
Labor studies programs go beyond helping us improve our handling of grievances and collective bargaining. These programs help us understand the importance of labor power in our society.
We learn the importance of forging links with the broader community. Furthermore, labor studies help the movement to become more unified so we have one voice.
The Koch brothers and their ilk want to prevent the emergence of a strong progressive social movement that fights for working families. We need to move forward to combat efforts to put worker education and worker rights on the chopping block.
Eduardo Rosario is a grievance representative at AFSCME Local 375, NYC chapter president of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), and a fellow at the Cornell University/Worker Institute.