University of Oregon is proposing a devastating 45 percent budget cut to the only program on campus that’s focused on organized labor. Labor Education and Research Center (LERC), which celebrated its 40th anniversary a year and a half ago, learned on April 8 of plans to cut its annual budget by $488,000.
With six faculty, five support staff, and office space in Eugene and Portland, LERC is a small corner within the giant university, focused on providing training and research to Oregon unions. Over the years, thousands of union stewards and officers have taken part in LERC-sponsored events like the Collective Bargaining Institute, the AFL-CIO Summer School, and the Public Employment Relations Conference.
The LERC cuts are part of a package of cuts to UO programs that serve the public. Others on the chopping block include the university art and natural history museums and the university-sponsored Oregon Bach Festival.
“We were totally blindsided by this,” said LERC director Bob Bussel. “LERC really is the one place in the university focused on working class needs and concerns.”
LERC supporters are appealing to Provost Jayanth Banavar and University of Oregon President Michael Schill to reconsider. On April 24, the UO faculty senate passed a resolution calling on the university to rethink its plan for disproportionate cuts to the public-facing programs and instead distribute any cuts more equitably across all units. Supporters also created a web site, SaveLERC.com, where people can find sample emails and sign an online petition.
Bussel said if the cuts are approved, they would take effect July 1 and be implemented over the next two years.