Monday, June 18, 2007

Labor Studies Under Attack

The University of Missouri at Kansas City is planning to eliminate its Institute for Labor Studies (ILS) and fire director Judy Ancel.

In doing so, UMKC joins several other universities that have attacked labor studies programs. UMKC's decision is even more irrational, however, since the university makes money from the program, and because the decision to destroy was made with little thought or planning or faculty input. So long as universities put vast amounts of money into business programs, they cannot eliminate the far smaller labor studies programs without giving everyone the impression that an ideological double standard is being imposed. Let's hope UMKC has enough sense to reverse this ideologically biased and fiscally irrational decision.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger 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. Matt Tennis, legislative director for the Associated Builders and Contractors, declared: This body operates like a taxpayer-funded, pro-union think tank, churning out endless reports that promote a pro-labor union ideology and a labor union agenda. In the 2005 California budget, Schwarzenegger proposed eliminating the $3.8 million budget for the UCLA Labor Center, even while increasing state funding for higher education. Schwarzenegger made a similar effort in 2004, only to be blocked by the state legislature which cut the center’s budget by 5% in a compromise. By contrast, the wealthy UCLA Anderson School of Management received $15.8 million in state funding. Kent Wong, director of the Labor Center, warned: "If funds for a university should be based on how one provides a business-friendly environment, then there are a lot of areas at the university that would be superfluous.”

Now UMKC's program is on the chopping block.

David Brodsky of UMKC sends this message:

The Institute for Labor Studies (ILS) and the position of its director, Judy
Ancel (an AAUP member), has been terminated. After a meeting with
Chancellor Guy Bailey, Ancel was told that she would hear about a final
decision by Wednesday June 20.

Please sign Ancel's petition to Chancellor Bailey TODAY (see below) so that
she can deliver it before Wednesday. To sign, please directly e-mail to add your name and title to the petition.

Besides signing Ancel's petition, please write a short personal note
directly to Bailey asking him to reinstate ILS and Ancel's position. GUY H.

ILS serves not only UMKC and the Kansas City community but two other UM
system campuses and communities in Columbia and St. Louis.

While the reason given for termination (ex post facto) was budgetary, the
decision to terminate is purely ideological. The UMKC fiscal contribution
to ILS is miniscule, most funding comes from organized labor.

The decision to terminate is also an ideological attack on the UMKC
Department of Economics, which houses ILS and specializes in heterodox
(non-neo-liberal) economics. It also damages relations between UMKC and the
broader labor community, which funds and is served by ILS and its many

Ancel is an invaluable resource in terms of her knowledge of labor
relations, labor history, and grievance procedures. Firing her and ending
her program comes just at the time when the Missouri Supreme Court has
reenabled collective bargaining by public employees. Now that collective
bargaining for public employees is back on the table, Ancel's expertise is
needed more than ever, above all for UMKC faculty and staff.

For more background on the petition, see Ancel's introductory statement

Apologies for the very short notice, we just received the petition.

Thanks very much for your activism. Please distribute to all your networks
with an URGENT message.


David Brodsky



Dear Colleague:

We are writing you to ask you to sign the attached petition to save The
Institute for Labor Studies (ILS). ILS is the only labor education program
in Western Missouri. It is a partnership between UMKC and Longview Community
College. It has one full-time staff member who administers the program which
includes the state-wide Certificate in Labor Studies, other credit classes,
non-credit custom training for unions, conferences, ILS's radio show The
Heartland Labor Forum and an active relationship with schools and a number
of community organizations.

On May 30th UMKC Provost Bruce Bubacz sent a letter to Longview Community
College stating that UMKC was ending its partnership with Longview to
sponsor The Institute for Labor Studies and that it was closing ILS as of
June 30th. No reason was given.

ILS Director Judy Ancel and Economics Department Chair Jim Sturgeon were
copied on the letter. That's how they were notified that Ancel, after over
18 years of service to UMKC, would be laid off, and the Institute, which is
22 years old, would be closed. There were no discussions beforehand with us
about the contributions of ILS to the university and the community or the
impact of this decision, and there was no opportunity given the Economics
Department to defend the program. We were later told that this decision was
part of the 1% cuts mandated by the Curators.

On June 13th Ancel met with Chancellor Guy Bailey and outlined the following
reasons why he should reverse the decision to close ILS.

o Faculty Governance: The decision to close ILS was done with no
consultation and undermines our strong tradition of faculty governance over
issues of curriculum.

o No money will be saved: The university will save no money by closing ILS.
Most of the budget comes from University Extension and is earmarked money
for a state-wide cooperative Certificate in Labor Studies program at UMKC,
UMC, and UMSL. To pull UMKC out of this program will destroy it, and the
earmarked funds will no longer be allocated to UMKC. The money UMKC will
lose by closing ILS is almost twice as much as what it spends.

o ILS effectively fulfills UMKC's mission: ILS creates partnerships with the
Kansas City community and helps professionalize labor relations on the union
side. ILS brings UMKC to the public through education in high schools, other
colleges, with civic organizations, in the immigrant community and in the

o It's a question of balance: While the university amply serves the business
community, the closure of ILS will leave no academic program which focuses
on the workplace. ILS enjoys very substantial support in the labor
community. The members of the ILS Labor Advisory Board are extremely
concerned about the possible closure of the program. This is a constituency
which is very politically active and has been a strong supporter of higher

Chancellor Bailey told Ancel that he was very sorry for the manner in which
the decision was communicated to her but that he has to show a 1% cut in his
costs irrespective of the net effect. He promised to look into the matter
and to give her a decision by Wednesday of next week.

We must therefore appeal to you as well as to the community partners of ILS
to defend the program. Please email Judy Ancel at to add
your name to the attached petition. We think you will agree that ILS is
worth saving and that we all have an interest in questioning the manner in
which this decision was made.

Please respond by June 19. Thank you very much.


Peter Eaton
Interim Chair
Department of Economics

Judy Ancel
ILS Director


Petition language

The Institute for Labor Studies is an effective program in fulfilling UMKC's
mission as an urban and land-grant institution to be a 'strong partner with
the Kansas City community.' to 'develop a professional workforce through
collaboration in urban issues and education,' to provide 'life-long
learning,' 'interdisciplinary cooperation,' to 'nurture positive, visionary,
empowering environments,' and to 'collaborate, partner and interact,' and is
a model of urban education and community outreach,

The decision by the administration to close the Institute for Labor Studies
and end the statewide Certificate in Labor Studies program bypasses the
essential educational role of faculty governance in making decisions about

The Institute for Labor Studies serves working people whose organizations
are an important constituency for support of higher education, who strongly
support the program and who are very concerned about the elimination of the
only worker and workplace centered program that the university offers,

The closure of ILS will create a net loss in revenue to the university
because most of its budget is earmarked for a state-wide Certificate in
Labor Studies program,

Therefore, we the undersigned faculty and staff of UMKC urge the Chancellor
to reverse the decision to close The Institute for Labor Studies and restore
its budget.

Please email to add your name and title to the petition

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